DETROIT – An explosive report published by VICE accuses former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder of covering up and lying about the Flint water crisis.
The report by journalists Jordan Chariton and Jenn Dize was published on Thursday after an 18-month investigation.
“Hundreds of confidential pages of documents obtained by VICE, along with emails and interviews, reveal a coordinated, five-year cover-up overseen by Snyder and his top officials to prevent news of Flint’s deadly water from going public—while there was still time to save lives—and then limit the damage after the crisis made global headlines,” the report states.
VICE reports it obtained documents that show:
- Snyder was warned about the dangers of using the Flint River as a water source a year before the water switch even occurred.
- Snyder had knowledge of the Legionella outbreak in Flint as early as October 2014, six months after the water switch—and 16 months earlier than he claimed to have learned of the deadly outbreak in testimony under oath before Congress.
- communication among Snyder, his top officials, and the state health department spiked in October 2014 around the same time state environmental and health officials traded emails and calls about the Legionella outbreak in Flint.
VICE reports, “during those 16 months, Snyder’s top advisor, Baird, attempted to pay off sick Flint residents to keep quiet and silenced a whistleblower sounding alarms over the city using the Flint River while there was still time to save lives. And Snyder himself “punished” Weaver, Flint’s mayor, she said, after she repeatedly refused his administration’s requests for her to declare the water safe in Flint to residents.”
Additionally, the VICE report says, “Snyder and his administration were investigated by a team led by special prosecutor Todd Flood from 2016 to 2019. The team concluded that the administration had “committed conspiracies of ongoing crimes, like an organized crime unit."
“But before a case against Snyder could develop, the state’s newly appointed attorney general, Dana Nessel, fired top prosecutors and investigators pursuing the case.”
VICE notes that the Michigan statute of limitations runs out on April 25, 2020, for new felony misconduct-in-office charges related to the water crisis to be filed, although the Michigan AG’s office disputes this deadline.
In June of 2019, prosecutors announced they were dismissing all criminal charges against eight people in the Flint water scandal and starting the investigation over again.
The eight people included former Michigan health director Nick Lyon. He was accused of failing to timely inform the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease when Flint was using improperly treated water from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015.
Local 4 reached out to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for comment on the VICE report. A joint statement was issued from the AG’s office, by Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy:
“As we approach six years since the water switch in Flint, we must remember the ongoing struggle of the people of Flint, and their resiliency in the face of a man-made disaster that will span generations. But they did not volunteer to serve as a cautionary tale of government gone wrong. This fate was imposed on them by a series of actions and inactions that created the historic injustice of the Flint Water Crisis.
"From the outset, our team committed to a complete investigation of the Flint Water Crisis, using all investigative means at our disposal. We committed to professional prosecution of anyone criminally responsible for this man-made crisis and the resulting death, injury and trauma experienced by the people of Flint. Despite the challenges posed to our state by the COVID-19 pandemic, the current state of emergency will not prevent us from pursuing justice.
"April 25, 2014, is a significant date in the history of the Flint Water Crisis. However, we want to correct the misconception that April 25, 2020 is the deadline to bring charges against those who may be criminally liable. Criminal statutes of limitations vary depending on the offense and the date of the alleged criminal act. Though we cannot comment on the specifics of our investigation, we remain on track, and we are delivering on our commitment to the people of Flint.”