State files $11 billion lawsuit against Gladwin County drain commissioner
(5/17/2018) - $11 billion.
That's how much the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is suing the Gladwin County drain commissioner for, saying he is not doing his job.
But Robert Evans said he is doing his job and this is a case of government overreach.
Evans has been Gladwin County's drain commissioner since 2010. The state claims he has been violating the law since 2012, leading to the substantial lawsuit.
"It's scary, obviously," Evans said. "Eleven billion or 1 million, what difference does it make to me because I wouldn't have been able to pay either one. But the county can't afford it either."
The lawsuit alleges that Evans repeatedly violated environmental regulations, including failing to protect surface water and prevent soil erosion and sedimentation.
Evans admits drains are being cleaned in the county, but he doesn't believe he is doing any environmental damage.
"I told the DEQ representative at one point that, 'Hey, if you go and see I'm getting something into the river, then come and find me," he said.
The Gladwin County Board of Commissioners wasn't made aware of the extent of the violations until last December. It has requested Gov. Rick Snyder remove Evans from the elected office.
State Sen. Jim Stamas agrees Evans should be removed. But Evans doesn't think his actions rise to that level.
"I think I'm doing a good job for them," he said. "I would think if anybody goes out there and looks at the drains, I'm sure in that 50-some miles of drain we have cleaned, there is some soil erosion somewhere. But basically it is negligible."
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released a statement Thursday saying it can't confirm the $11 billion price tag of the lawsuit.
The highest priority for the department is getting the violations fixed to prevent any ongoing environmental damage and preventing any further violations.
"I don't think we are," Evans said. "In fact, we have reduced sediment getting to the river."
He said if the lawsuit ends with an $11 billion judgment against the county, he would resign.