Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Flint Water Crisis continues apace with Flint residents still being told that their drinking water is completely safe but that they should not drink it without filtering it first.
First we have gubernatorial candidate (and state attorney general) Bill Schuette telling reporters that he’s not going to charge Gov. Snyder in his investigation, at least not yet.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday that Gov. Rick Snyder is not being charged with any crimes related to the Flint’s lead-contaminated water but left the door open to the possibility. […]
When asked at a Wednesday morning news conference why Snyder has not been charged, Schuette said no “crime has been established,” and “we’re not filing charges at this time.”
However, Schuette IS calling for the resignations of Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon who has been charged with manslaughter and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, who was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer:
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Thursday called for two top state officials to resign after his legal team filed criminal charges against them in an investigation of Flint’s water crisis.
Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, while the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer. The charges are related to state health department’s failure to issue a public alert about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Flint area in 2014-15 that resulted in 12 deaths and 79 other illnesses.
Despite Gov. Rick Snyder’s vow to stand behind Lyon and Wells and keep them on the job, Schuette told The Detroit News editorial board it would be “proper” for them to step down.
“We charged those individuals with serious crimes,” Schuette said.
Former Flint director of public works Howard Croft has also been charged with manslaughter in the most recent round of action stemming from the investigation being conducted by Schuette’s office and with other charges earlier this year. His attorney publicly criticized Schuette’s office for trying his client in the media:
An attorney representing one of the Flint water crisis defendants criticized the state prosecutors Monday for stoking the fires and trying the case in public before it even goes to trial.
James White, who represents former Flint director of public works Howard Croft, said he was concerned about Attorney General Bill Schuette’s news conference last week announcing more charges in the case amid heavy media coverage with another release of mug shots of his client and others.
Although mug shots are not unusual in a case like this, said White, whose client is also accused of felony false pretense and conspiracy to commit false pretenses. “Our concern is that these mug shots were released six months after the charges. We find that timing … suspect.”
Croft’s lawyer also took aim at Schuette’s news conference last week as “a carnival-like atmosphere” with a Flint water tower mural as a backdrop.
The photos served one purpose, he said, “and that was to inflame this community, to inflame a potential juror pool and prejudiced Mr. Croft.”
Schuette’s grandstanding is little more than a crass exploitation of the calamity that has been inflicted on the residents of Flint. However, we’re in a position of having to support the investigation because it is likely the only path for justice for the people of Flint.
Based on the recent charges filed against Snyder administration officials, the state of Michigan has increased the budget to defend them by $4 million, bringing the total to $8.5 million. That means Michigan taxpayers will be paying to defend those charged with millions of their tax dollars.
The Root has an excellent op-ed up at their site pointing out that the malfeasance resulting in the manslaughter charges filed by Schuette’s office last week bring responsibility for the Flint Water Crisis directly to Gov. Snyder’s door:
In October 2016, when the investigation into Lyon was announced, several articles drawing on state emails noted that Harvey Hollins, Snyder’s director of urban initiatives, had been informed of a Legionnaires’ outbreak back in March 2015. Now that Lyon has been charged with failing to act on this knowledge, however, the Legionella connections to Snyder have dropped out of the media coverage.
Our review of emails released by Snyder shows that Snyder’s then-deputy press secretary Dave Murray knew about the outbreak in January 2015, two months earlier than Hollins. We don’t know if Murray is the first Snyder aide to hear about Legionnaires’ and a possible link to the water. But it places the news directly in Snyder’s office a full year before Snyder said he was told in January 2016, the same time Lyon first heard about the outbreak.
If we are to believe them, neither Murray nor another two aides notified in March saw Legionnaires’ as serious enough to alert the governor—perhaps because the Department of Environmental Quality employees writing them referred to the possibility of Legionnaires’ as bad public relations rather than a public health problem and called efforts to solve it “political flank cover.” […]
Obfuscation continued far beyond the public discovery of Legionella. Schuette’s warrant (pdf) for Nick Lyon describes Lyon issuing threats to Wayne State University professors investigating the cause of the outbreak. When they expressed concern that people would die in a new outbreak, Lyon allegedly said, “They have to die of something.” A senior Snyder adviser was present when Lyon said this, an adviser who told their professors their boss (Snyder) was “very unhappy” with the professors’ public statement of findings.
Meanwhile, the residents of Flint got a stark reminder about who is actually in charge in Flint. Despite accusations that the Flint Water Crisis is the sole fault of Flint government officials, the state had total control of their city government through Gov. Snyder’s appointed Emergency Managers. Although they are no longer under the control of an Emergency Manager, their city is still occupied and controlled by the state through the Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) which is stacked with yet more Snyder appointees. Yesterday the RTAB rejected a decision by the Flint City Council to place a one-year moratorium on tax liens on homes that have overdue water bills. Many Flint residents understandably chose not to pay for poisoned water they could not drink or bathe in and, as a consequence, now face losing their homes to tax foreclosure. The RTAB is,apparently, totally fine with that, setting up a showdown between the state and the city:
A state oversight board rejected Tuesday the city’s one-year freeze on forcing nearly 8,000 residents to pay their delinquent water bills, a move the city’s mayor said she’d defy.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said Tuesday that she disagrees with the state board and will withhold the water tax liens from Genesee County — a move that she said essentially would continue the moratorium on water payments that the City Council approved last month. It also might delay foreclosures on homes with delinquent bills totaling $5.1 million.
“ … It seems that RTAB felt it was necessary due to Council’s decision of not supporting the longterm water source recommendation, which means the city will now have to purchase water at a much higher price along with several other costly financial obligations that could have been avoided,” Weaver said in a statement Tuesday. “I am ordering the city’s chief financial officer to not transfer the liens to the county.”
Another week of sadness for the country’s most beleaguered city. Please keep this story alive and don’t ever allow the people of Flint to be forgotten.
UPDATE: No sooner had I hit “publish” then this bombshell headline popped up on my phone: “State sues Flint over delays in approving drinking water source“.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sued the city of Flint today over the city council’s foot-dragging in approving Detroit’s Great Lakes Water Authority as its long-term drinking water source.
The city has been buying water from the GLWA by extending contracts for several months at a time. The mayor wants to strike a 30-year agreement.
The lawsuit is a striking turnabout for the DEQ, the agency that investigations have shown was largely to blame for the city’s disastrous switch away from Detroit water to the Flint River as a temporary drinking source in April 2014. […]
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has negotiated a long-term agreement to keep the city on GLWA water, which Flint has been using again since October 2015, the suit alleges.
“Continued use of that reliable source is necessary to ensure the protection of public health in Flint,” the suit alleges.
“Despite proposing no other reasonable alternative, the Flint City Council has refused to approve the agreement negotiated by the mayor.”
The DEQ wants the court to “declare that the City Council’s inaction will result in a violation of applicable law and that Flint must enter into the agreement.”
If this story was a Netflix series, you’d think it was too wild to be plausible.