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

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. 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. 



By Steve Carmody,
June, 2015


Connie Theron, Practising Attorney - UCT Law Clinic
“While working at the University of Stellenbosch Legal Aid Clinic and later at the UCT Law Clinic, I found the pro bono mediation services of Gerrie van der Watt of the Mediation Centre to be highly professional and extremely effective in our divorce matters. It is fantastic that our clients, with little or no financial means, can benefit from such an excellent programme.

The mediators are able to provide a non-threatening environment in which the clients are able to talk openly about issues that matter most to them, but which the Court in a divorce matter may choose not to entertain. Through the mediation sessions, the clients are able to reach an agreement together which ultimately they are both happy with. In cases where mediation did not yield the result of a settlement, the process was still extremely valuable, giving the parties better perspective and highlighting the key issues in dispute.”