Michigan Dem Gov. Whitmer's office used coded message to hide email from public

By 
 September 2, 2023

A consultant for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) shared a message in a different language to hide it from public records, according to a new lawsuit.

The message was involved in the 2021 lead water crisis in Benton Harbor.

The issue

"The communication discussed the 2021 lead water crisis in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a town whose residents ultimately sued Whitmer over her administration’s 'deliberate indifference' to addressing the crisis. For years, the town’s water system exceeded federal standards of lead contamination," Breitbart News reported.

"Consultant Andy Leavitt sent a message to a Whitmer adviser in Greek, a move that 'appears to be calculated to conceal the statements,' a class action lawsuit against Whitmer’s government alleges," it added.

The message

"Leavitt's initial message was not written in English—the consultant used letters in the Greek alphabet in place of English ones, a move that 'appears to be calculated to conceal the statements,' a June court filing in a class action suit against Whitmer's government argues," according to the Free Beacon.

"Leavitt's use of Greek letters means his email would have been excluded from any public records request for government communications that contain the word 'Flint,'" it noted.

The lawsuit

"The lawsuit was filed by Benton Harbor residents against Whitmer, the state of Michigan, the city, and others in November 2021 following the administration's response to the town's water system exceeding federal standards for lead contamination," the Daily Mail reported.

"Days before the Benton Harbor lawsuit was filed, a Michigan judge signed off on a $626 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by Flint residents over the city’s supply," it continued.

Using a different language would have effectively kept the email from being flagged in FOIA records requests due to keywords such as "Flint" not being searchable.

In addition, Whitmer's office is also not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, despite her commitment to change the policy as part of her 2018 campaign.

Whitmer's office disputes the claim but has so far provided no other reasonable explanation for the change in language in the particular message that would otherwise be concerning for the governor.

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