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'Mediation' an option, according to people suing Flint over its high water bills

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit to reduce Flint's high water bills say they would like to reach a deal.

Soon after taking the job in 2011, former Flint emergency manager Michael Brown hiked the city's water and sewer rates.   

The lawsuit claims Brown violated city ordinances by imposing the rate hike. The suit also contends that Michigan’s emergency manager law didn’t give him the authority to do that. 

A lower court found that state law did give Brown the authority and dismissed the lawsuit.

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Attorney Val Washington holds a binder with information on Flint residents with liens on their property for failing to pay their water bills

However, last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court. The appeals court ruled Flint’s emergency manager lacked the authority to raise water rates. The case now heads back to the lower court. 

City Councilman Scott Kincaid is one of several Flint residents named in the lawsuit as plaintiffs. He says he would like to see the city eliminate the rate increase and discuss repaying city water users.

“Either let us go back to court…or maybe we can do some sort of mediation…arbitration,” says Kincaid.

City officials declined comment on the lawsuit.

The city of Flint can still appeal the court’s reversal to the Michigan Supreme Court. 

It’s unclear how much money the city of Flint may have to refund or pay out in some form of compensation. 

During a news conference Monday, attorney Val Washington held up a large binder filled with the names of Flint residents who’ve had liens placed on their homes because they failed to pay their water bills.

It’s also unclear if the city of Flint could even afford to pay any amount of restitution if it ends up either losing in court or cutting a deal.

Still, Washington believes it’s time for the city to discuss compensating people hurt by the rate increase.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but in my mind there’s a framework that can be discussed,” says Washington.  

Without a deal, the legal fight could take years.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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