Schauer calls for federal probe of Snyder’s office
By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for governor, wants the U.S. Attorney to investigate Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.
During an interview with this paper March 27, Schauer said he thought it was appropriate for federal investigators to “look at what kind of favors were being done, if any.”
Schauer was referring to the scandal uncovered by the state Democratic Party surrounding the governor’s cousin. George Snyder owns a furniture company, DBI Business Interiors, with offices in Jackson and Lansing. DBI is also a subcontractor of Haworth Inc., a company supplying office furniture to the State of Michigan since the 1990s.
According to emails the Democrats obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, when George Snyder realized the State was going to cut its furniture purchases to $1 million, he sent an email April 2011 to Richard Baird in the governor’s office, saying he was very “upset and nervous about the language in the Senate bill on furniture.”
Baird forwarded the email to then Budget Director John Nixon and replied to the governor’s cousin with the email message, “people are on this, sit tight.” Nixon emailed Baird to say, “We are on it.”
In July 2011, George Snyder emailed Baird again. This time he proposed a meeting with Nixon to discuss the furniture procurement process. The House had made no amendments to the furniture budget and it never became law. Baird forwarded that email as well to Nixon, mentioning the relationship between the governor and George Snyder.
In September 2012 the value of the Haworth contracts more than doubled from $19.2 million to $41.4 million, the Democrats revealed. According to an Associated Press analysis, a 2013 state contract with Haworth for office seating also rose from $4.7 million to $7.2 million.
Baird has been at the center of additional controversy in the Snyder administration over the NERD fund, which draws dollars secretly donated to Snyder’s efforts. Baird, who is paid out of the NERD fund, was working in the governor’s office on state business; he was not a state employee. Synder’s New Energy to Reinvest and Diversity Fund paid Baird’s salary and also Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s accommodations in the Book Cadillac.
Snyder refused to reveal the source of the NERD funds and has since stopped paying Baird from the fund.
Schauer said the scandal comes as no surprise. “This is how the CEO NERD governor has governed,” Schauer said. “It’s Rich Baird who was paid for out of his NERD fund — and, by the way, all of these activities were happening when he was paid out of this NERD fund. It raises a lot of questions. You know, the fact that he would be trying to do favors or take care of this business that happens to be run by the governor’s cousin. It raises a lot of concern about how this governor does business. Who’s he looking out for? Keep in mind this was 2011. This was a time when Gov. Snyder cut a billion dollars from public schools; was cutting money to local cities like Detroit; cutting money to universities like Wayne State University; was raising taxes on retiree pensions, working families, the working poor. So, this is a governor who is out of touch; shows the wrong set of priorities.”
The Michigan Democratic Party has already sent materials on this matter to U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles, he said.
The governor’s office did not return a phone call seeking comment. In published reports, the governor has dismissed the furniture dealings, saying, “It’s people trying to occupy time and space and make this a story, so we’ll spend less time working on jobs and I won’t play that game.”
In an AP report, state budget office spokesperson Kurt Weiss said DBI as a subcontractor dealer gets an undisclosed cut of the Haworth contracts. Weiss said the value of the furniture contracts went up because the state is closing offices and relocating employees to state-owned buildings. The cost-saving cuts and moves require one-time upfront expenses such as refitting work cubicles.