Wondering whether your tax dollars get wisely spent? Here’s another clue that the answer might be “no”. The Michigan Department of Human Services opted for extremely expensive legal representation in a child welfare case instead of working with more cost-effective, salaried state attorneys.
Michigan is under federal oversight due to a 2006 lawsuit related to improving the state foster care system. In 2014, John Bursch of Warner, Norcross & Judd, was hired to modify or end the agreement between Michigan DHS and a child welfare organization named Children’s Rights. The agreement was renegotiated once back in 2011 after Governor Snyder took office.
Bursch was hired by former Michigan DHS leader, Maura Corrigan, who departed last year.
However, Bursch’s hourly rate is $558 per hour. DHS has reported that $183,823 has been paid for work completed through the end of last year. The contract in question has no limit either.
Maura Corrigan defended the hiring, stating that the attorney general’s office falls below Bursch’s skills. Unquestionably skillful, Bursch argued eight U.S. Supreme Court cases as the state’s solicitor general. In 2013, he returned to private practice. However, Corrigan gave no explanation how the payments fit into their tight budget.
Back in December, Bursch asked the federal judge to modify or end the oversight in the case because 79% of the goals of the agreement had been reached. He also argued that Michigan has greatly improved regarding these issues, but is still forced to spend a lot of money on lawyers who sued DHS and the court-appointed monitors that are tracking compliance with the agreement.