Michigan governor's lawyer called Flint water 'scary' a year before state acted

LANSING, Mich. -- Gov. Rick Snyder's newest release of state emails and documents related to Flint's water disaster appears to indicate that his aides' reluctance to brief him, his own mismanagement -- or both -- led to delays in addressing the public health threat.

See Full Article

A full year before his administration helped the city reconnect to Lake Huron water after lead contamination was exposed, two top advisers were already advocating the move, citing E. coli and a General Motors plant's rusting parts. Snyder's chief legal counsel even told the chief of staff that using Flint River water was "downright scary."

Yet the Republican governor insists those specific warnings -- weeks before his re-election -- were never given directly to him, and state officials decided then that it would cost too much to rejoin Detroit's system.

With documents revealing such discussions in Snyder's inner circle, even the governor's allies acknowledge how badly the issue seems to have been handled.

"The right people were raising the right issues, they were sounding the alarms," said John Truscott, a public relations strategist who was the spokesman for former GOP Gov. John Engler. "Why wasn't it followed through on?"

Snyder has apologized but refused to resign over his administration's role in the water crisis. The tainted water has left children with elevated lead levels, which have been linked to learning disabilities and other problems. He has also reassigned top spokespeople and fired regulators that a task force concluded were responsible for not deploying corrosion controls after the April 2014 switch, which let lead leach from aging pipes into some homes.

"We didn't connect all the dots that I wish we would have," Snyder said Friday in Flint, where he signed into law $30 million in state aid to partially cover the water bills of residents and businesses going back about two years. "That's where I'm kicking myself every day."

The newly released emails, which the governor was not required to make public but did so under pressure from the media, detail how Snyder failed to get a handle on the crisis over the course of a year.

In October 2014, deputy legal counsel Valerie Brader emailed other top Snyder officials asking to request that Flint's state-appointed emergency manger return to buying water from Detroit's water system. She alluded to problems with a carcinogenic disinfectant byproduct, known as trihalomethane -- 2 1/2 months before the public was notified.

Chief legal counsel Mike Gadola quickly responded, telling chief of staff Dennis Muchmore and others that using Flint River water was "downright scary" and noting that his mother lived in the city. "Nice to know she's drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal coliform," he said, adding, "They should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control."

Snyder's new spokesman, Ari Adler, said Muchmore, who now works for a law firm, told him the potential of returning to the Detroit system was discussed with the governor but ultimately not pursued.

In January 2015, Adler, who had just joined Snyder's office, emailed communications director Jarrod Agen -- who is now chief of staff -- reacting to a Detroit Free Press story headlined "Who wants to drink Flint's water?"

"This is a public relations crisis -- because of a real or perceived problem is irrelevant -- waiting to explode nationally. If Flint had been hit with a natural disaster that affected its water system, the state would be stepping in to provide bottled water and other assistance. What can we do given the current circumstances?"

Snyder denied that his staffers were hesitant to alert him to problems.

"In many cases, they went back to the people that were responsible for those areas to say, 'Do you see a problem, do you see an issue?"' he said referring to officials in the Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services. "They kept on reaffirming there was no problem."

After Snyder lawyers recommended that Flint switch back to Detroit's system, Agen said, the governor's office had "a lot of back and forth" with Treasury officials and relented to their financial concerns -- similar to how the office repeatedly accepted DEQ experts' "pushback" that the water was fine.

"It wasn't the governor's office driving decisions. Instead we were trusting advice we were getting back. It should have been the other way around," Agen told The Associated Press.

Snyder said he wishes he asked more questions and had not just accepted answers.

Democrats, though, accused the governor of prioritizing cost-cutting measures over people's health and safety.

"A crime was committed against the children and families of Flint, and the unheeded warnings expressed to this governor, by his own inner circle, are as close to a smoking gun as you can get," state Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said in a statement.

------

Associated Press writers Mike Householder in Flint, Tammy Webber in Fenton, John Flesher in Traverse City and Roger Schneider in Detroit contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Mulroney breaks ground for Mulroney Institute in N.S.: 'It was a major endeavour'

    Canada News CTV News
    ANTIGONISH, N.S. -- Brian Mulroney returned once more to St. Francis Xavier University, his Nova Scotia alma mater, for the official ground-breaking of a $100 million project for which he raised the money and which in part bears his name. Source
  • Calgary man gets seven-year sentence for strangling wife, burying her body

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Allan Shyback told a harrowing tale in court. He was the longtime domestic abuse victim at the hands of his wife, Lisa Mitchell. And that’s why he strangled her to death in 2012 and then stuffed the dead woman’s body into a Rubbermaid container and cemented it into their basement wall. Source
  • Mueller investigators seek documents from the White House

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators is seeking information from the White House related to Michael Flynn's stint as national security adviser and about the response to a meeting with a Russian lawyer that was attended by U.S. Source
  • Oklahoma cops shoot, Taser deaf man holding metal pipe [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    Oklahoma City police officers who opened fire on a man who was approaching them holding a metal pipe apparently didn’t hear witnesses yelling that the man was deaf, the department said Wednesday. Police Capt. Bo Mathews said 35-year-old Magdiel Sanchez wasn’t obeying the officers’ commands before one shot him with a gun and the other with a Taser on Tuesday night. Source
  • Gorilla-masked man sought after Stony Plain convenience store heist

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A man was not monkeying around when he entered a Stony Plain convenience store wearing a gorilla mask on Monday, robbing the store before fleeing with an undisclosed sum of cash. According to RCMP, the man wearing gloves and a gorilla mask walked into the 7-11 near Highway 16A Monday morning armed with a wrench and chisel. Source
  • Sexual predator who was 'gifted' young wives jailed

    World News Toronto Sun
    DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — A man convicted of sexually assaulting six girls from the same family, fathering two children with one of them, is scheduled to be sentenced in a Pennsylvania court. Fifty-two-year-old Lee Donald Kaplan will be sentenced in Bucks County court Wednesday on multiple counts of child rape, statutory sexual assault and other charges. Source
  • Calgary man jailed for life after robbery turns deadly

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    It was supposed to be a robbery and assault, but it turned into murder. Those were the facts admitted Wednesday by Said Raed Abdulbaki, after he pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. Reading from a statement of agreed facts, Crown prosecutor Rajbir Dhillon told Court of Queen's Bench Justice Craig Jones that Abdulbaki was present when David Quach, 27, was slain. Source
  • Beep, beep! Kids drive luxury mini cars to operating room

    World News CBC News
    A San Diego children's hospital unveiled a collection of remote-controlled luxury mini cars that allow its young patients to "drive" themselves to the operating room. The cars at the Rady Children's Hospital are actually operated by a nurse or a doctor, and are part of a new program designed to make children more relaxed before their procedures. Source
  • Teen killer remains in adult jail in 'shocking' case of segregation

    Canada News CBC News
    A judge has urged Nova Scotia corrections officials to move an 18-year-old convicted murderer out of an adult jail where he's been held in virtual isolation for a year after he attacked guards at his youth facility. Source
  • Homes destroyed as Hurricane Maria slams Puerto Rico: ‘This is going to be a disaster’ [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit Puerto Rico pummeled the island Wednesday as officials warned it would decimate the power company’s crumbling infrastructure and force the government to rebuild dozens of communities. Source