Michigan Municipal League via Flickr
Former Governor Rick Snyder.
To paraphrase the famous Watergate question, what did former Gov. Rick Snyder know about the Flint water crisis, and when did he know it? According to a bombshell report
published on Thursday by VICE
, much more than he previously acknowledged — and long before he did.
Reporters Jordan Chariton and Jenn Dize spent more than a year and a half interviewing top officials and poring through hundreds of pages of confidential documents provided by sources involved in the criminal probe of the water crisis, who were granted anonymity to protect them from retaliation. The findings suggest a coordinated, years-long cover-up that goes all the way up to Snyder.
One source with knowledge of the probe alleges Snyder and his cronies “committed conspiracies of ongoing crimes, like an organized crime unit.”
Among the many new allegations in the piece: Snyder was warned about the dangers of using Flint River water in 2013, a year before the disastrous switch occurred; that Snyder knew of Flint’s Legionella outbreak as early as October 2014, 16 months earlier than he claimed under oath during a Congressional testimony; and that an investigation into the alleged fraud in the Karegnondi Water Authority bond deal was dropped because ultimately the state, which signed off on the deal, would be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars owed to big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
Beyond that, the report alleges that Snyder had “an old-fashioned fixer” in Richard Baird, who was paying off sick families with medical treatments to keep them quiet.
One man, whose entire family had become poisoned with lead, was singled out after being escorted by police from a town hall meeting in early 2017 for making a scene. Soon after, Baird appeared at Murphy’s house promising that the Snyder administration would pay for a medical treatment called chelation therapy to remove the lead from his and his family’s bodies in exchange for their silence. The treatment was allegedly part of a “pilot program” that Baird claimed would be offered to all Flint residents.
Even former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver alleges Snyder used similar tactics to control her, promising money for water relief and staffing, which he threatened to take back if she didn’t publicly state that Flint’s water was safe to drink. Weaver refused. Things came to a head in an April 2018 meeting in which Weaver alleges Snyder blew up at her, telling her that it was time for Flint residents to “get over it” and move on.
And as recently as last year, Weaver alleges Snyder asked her to ask Congressman Elijah Cummings of the U.S. House Oversight Committee to “back off” his investigation into Snyder. Cummings died in October.
Snyder and Baird did not respond to requests for comment, according to VICE
, nor did Special Prosecutor Todd Flood.
Now, six years after the crisis began, Snyder has not yet been formally charged. Last year, Attorney General Dana Nessel fired top prosecutors and investigators pursuing the case and dropped charges against Snyder officials because the probe was “flawed”
— but some worry that the statute of limitations on new charges will soon run out.
You can read the full report at VICE
Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.