Gladwin Drain Commission faces $11 billion lawsuit

May 18, 2018

By Pat Maurer

Gladwin Drain Commissioner Robert Evans is facing an estimated $11 billion lawsuit charging that he violated Parts 31 and 91 of the Environmental Protection Act for his failure to “protect surface water and prevent soil erosion and sedimentation” and that he failed to “obtain soil erosion and sedimentation permits, and failed to “maintain records of inspections and corrective actions.”

Gladwin County Drain Commissioner Robert Evans

Gladwin County Drain Commissioner Robert Evans

The lawsuit was filed on April 13th by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on behalf of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and is asking for civil fines of $25,000 per day of violation of Part 31 and $2.500 per day for violations of Part 91 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act and related rules. Schuette cited 81 violations.

In addition the suit seeks attorney fees and surveillance and enforcement costs and court costs that could “bankrupt the County,” according to a quote from Gladwin Board Chair Terry Walters in a Midland Daily News article posted Monday, May 7th. The article said that “Walters asked the governor, DEQ and Schuette to not hold the county responsible for the DEQ fines.”

The Board of Commissioners reportedly have already paid a bill for $37,000 in attorney fees for Evans.

The 81 allegations date back to 2012 and concern corrective construction on Nestor Drain, Vernon Creek Drain, Bear Creek Drain, Burleson Drain, Davidson Creek, Longstreth Drain and Quillet Drain according to the lawsuit.

The county board learned about the allegations from Gladwin County Prosecutor Aaron Miller less than a year ago – too late to get help through the Michigan Municipal League’s Risk Factor, which could have helped pay legal fees.

The DEQ had sent a letter to Evans about a failure to get proper permits, but reported that he never responded to the letter.

According to the lawsuit, the DEQ has cited Evans 29 times for violations. It says that he has never responded to the citations.

Evans told the Daily News that he used standard practices (in work on drains) to do “his job” and that he “didn’t think he had done anything wrong.”
Evans was appointed to the position to fill a vacancy in 2010 and elected Drain Commissioner in 2012.

The board agreed that Evans had not complied with statutory requirements of the Michigan Drain Code, and at their meeting in April, Commissioners voted 4-1 to ask the governor to remove Evans as Drain Commissioner.

Gladwin Commissioner Don Birgel was the only dissenting vote. He told the Midland paper that he felt Evans should have been present when the commissioners voted. He was quoted as saying “We don’t know his side of the story.”

The lawsuit is set for Ingham County Circuit Court before Judge Rosmarie E. Aquilina, but a date has not been set. The suit was moved out of Gladwin County at Evan’s request.

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