A class action lawsuit filed by residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan alleges that a coded email sent by a consultant to a policy adviser for Governor Gretchen Whitmer was used to conceal information related to the state's handling of a local water crisis. The email, sent in September 2021, used letters from the Greek alphabet to send a message about "some major red flags" and compared the situation to the water crisis in Flint. The email was decoded during the discovery phase of the lawsuit and was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
The court filing highlights the consultant's use of the Greek alphabet as a deliberate attempt to hide the statements from public records requests. Had the state government not been sued, the coded email likely would have remained undiscovered, as Michigan's public records department cannot electronically search for records containing Greek letters.
The lawsuit was filed in November 2021 by residents of Benton Harbor against Whitmer, the state of Michigan, the city, and others. It alleges that despite having clear information about increasing levels of lead in the municipal water supply, the state and city officials lied to residents and recommended ineffective remediation measures. The water system in Benton Harbor had reportedly exceeded federal standards for lead contamination for years.
Whitmer, who began her second term as governor in January, has claimed to support enhanced transparency in government. However, she has yet to reverse a policy that allows her office to circumvent Freedom of Information Act requests from the public.
The discovery of the coded email raises questions about the transparency and integrity of Whitmer's administration, particularly in relation to water crises. Critics argue that the governor's actions prioritize her political career over the health and safety of Benton Harbor residents. Tudor Dixon, the 2022 Republican nominee for governor of Michigan, stated that Whitmer's corruption was exposed on the same day she addressed the state on her commitment to clean water and transparency.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a $626 million settlement for victims of the Flint water crisis, which was approved by a federal judge on the same day the lawsuit was filed. The Flint crisis, which involved contaminated water and inadequate government response, has become a symbol of government failure and negligence.
The residents of Benton Harbor hope that their lawsuit will bring attention to their own water crisis and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions. The coded email serves as evidence of potential wrongdoing and raises concerns about the transparency and honesty of government officials. As the lawsuit progresses, the residents of Benton Harbor seek justice and a resolution to their ongoing water issues.
themes: Michigan Washington