Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) warned Flint, Mich. parents the city water coming out of their taps could be so polluted that “I would certainly not bathe a newborn or infant” in it.
“The tragedy of Flint is a tragedy of immense proportions,” Schuette said during a Jan. 25 press conference.
“Things went so terribly wrong. I think what happened is that confidence in government shattered, and I understand that,” he added.
Schuette also announced he was opening an independent investigation to look for possible criminal charges in the Flint water crisis.
At the same time, Schuette said he would erect an “iron-clad, ethics-based conflict wall” between his Flint investigative team and the attorney general’s office team that will be defending Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and various state departments that face Flint water-related court action.
Some Flint residents filed a class-action lawsuit against Snyder, the state of Michigan, the city of Flint and other state and city officials in November, on behalf of those who were subjected to high levels of lead in the city’s water system.
CNN reported they complained of health effects including skin lesions, hair loss, high levels of lead in their blood, vision loss, memory loss, depression and anxiety.
“This independent investigation will be exhaustive and thorough. Without fear or favor, I will carry out my responsibility to enforce the laws and protect the families and citizens of Flint,” Schuette said.
After saying Jan. 15 he would investigate the Flint water crisis, but didn’t see a need for an independent investigation, Schuette announced Monday the appointment of former prosecutor Todd Flood as special counsel in his probe of the Flint water crisis.
“Attorney General Bill Schuette is doing the right thing by conducting an investigation into this crisis of public health and public trust in their government,” said Flood. “It is a privilege to have this opportunity to serve and to provide Michigan residents with an impartial answer to the question of whether any state laws were broken.”
Flood is a former assistant prosecutor who was in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for a decade, the state’s largest county and home to the city of Detroit.
As a prosecutor, Flood worked in the homicide, drug house and trial units. He is now a private practice attorney based in southeastern Michigan who specializes in both civil and criminal litigation.
He’s also donated to GOP candidates, and the state’s top Democrats have a problem with that part of Flood’s history.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon immediately criticized the appointment of Flood as special counsel. Dillon called Schuette’s decision “incomprehensible,” pointing out Flood donated $3,000 to Snyder’s gubernatorial campaigns in 2010 and 2014.
“The people of Flint deserve a truly independent investigation, not one spearheaded by a major Republican donor that has given thousands of dollars to Governor Snyder and has business entanglements that could present serious conflicts of interest,” Dillon said in a statement.
But Flood said he also donated to politicians on the other side of the aisle. Taking a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook, Flood revealed he gave $1,200 to former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2004.
“I don’t have a bias or a prejudice one way or another,” Flood told the Detroit News. “A contribution to an individual person at the time they ran for office is not going to sway me one way or another in this investigation. The chips fall where they may.”
Schuette told reporters he didn’t care about Flood’s past political donations.
Schuette also said retired Detroit FBI chief Andrew Arena would join the investigation into whether any Michigan laws were violated in the process that created a major public health crisis for Flint residents.
“We will enter the investigation with open eyes and follow the facts, whatever the outcome,” Arena said in a statement released by Schuette’s office, “and Flint families and Michigan families will receive a full and independent report of our investigation.”
Arena was the special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Detroit Field Office from 2007-2012. Arena served the FBI in several capacities in a law enforcement career spanning more than two decades. He has led the Detroit Crime Commission, a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing criminal activity, since 2012.
More importantly, Arena led the effort to bring down former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The retired FBI agent was in charge of the corruption probe that eventually put Kilpatrick in a federal prison.
Arena told reporters the problem into what went wrong in Flint would be an old-school police investigation, like something on the TV show Dragnet.
“The attorney general in an earlier meeting said this is going to be a Joe Friday kind of investigation,” Arena said. “So I’m Joe Friday.”