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Mackinac Center on TV: Patrick Wright talks MEA settlement

Mackinac Center paid $77K by teachers union to settle January 2022 lawsuit

The U.S. Department of Justice is not persuaded that Michigan’s biggest teachers union was merely absent-minded when it illegally took emergency COVID funds, Patrick Wright, the Mackinac Center’s vice president for legal affairs, told Mid-Michigan TV Monday.

The Mackinac Center was paid $77,000 by the Michigan Education Association after its January 2022 lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act. The Center alleged that the union and its health insurance arm, the Michigan Education Special Services Association, improperly claimed $12.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans.

See it for yourself: The Mackinac Center on TV

Read it for yourself: Mackinac Center on Mid-Michigan Now

Wright says the settlement makes clear that the government did not believe there was confusion on the union’s part.

The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, who took over the case from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, is Mark Totten, formerly chief legal counsel for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Wright pointed out. The Department of Justice is headed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, another Democrat. Totten and Garland both serve at the pleasure of President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

“If they thought it was frivolous, they had the opportunity to pass on the suit,” Wright said.

MEA spokesman Doug Pratt called the Mackinac Center lawsuit “frivolous” in his appearance on the Saginaw TV station, repeating an argument the union used in its press release on the settlement.

The union says it took the loan in April 2020 at a time of uncertainty, and it paid the funds back in December 2020, when it was clear the union and its related insurance arm were both ineligible.

Related reading: Mackinac Center paid $77K for reporting that MEA improperly took COVID-19 relief money

Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center, hailed the settlement and explained what would be done with the money.

“The award and fees will be used to advance school choice and educate Michigan teachers about their right to opt out of union membership and dues,” Lehman said.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.