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Michigan's Attorney General names team to investigate Flint's drinking water crisis

Jan 25, 2016

After many months of finger-pointing, there’s an effort underway in Michigan to determine just who’s at fault for the city of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

Michigan’s Attorney General has now appointed a special counsel to investigate how the city’s tap water became contaminated with lead.

People in Flint have spent nearly two years drinking bottled water.

Attorney Todd Flood will lead a special investigation into Flint's drinking water crisis
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

For almost as long, there’s been a demand that someone be held accountable for the decisions that left their tap water undrinkable.

Today, Michigan’s Attorney General took a step in that direction.

“Make no mistake about it,” Schuette told a packed news conference, “without fear and without favor, this independent investigation will be high performance.  And the chips fall where they may.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette introduced former assistant county prosecutor Todd Flood as the special counsel overseeing the investigation.

As a county prosecutor, Flood handled homicide, drug, and other criminal cases. He’s now in private practice.

A special counsel was needed because, by law, the attorney general’s office would have to defend the state and the governor’s office against any lawsuits tied to the Flint water crisis. 

It was the governor who appointed emergency managers who decided to save money by switching the city’s drinking water source.  Also, two state agencies under the governor failed to detect or adequately address the problem. 

Flood promises to “get to the bottom” of what happened in Flint.

“We’re going to open up every door,” says Flood, “We’re going to ask the tough questions… [including] the proverbial questions of what did you know and when did you know it.”

But even before Flood spoke this morning, questions were raised about his ties to the Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, including large financial contributions made to Snyder’s past political campaigns.

Those contributions concern Melanie McElroy, who heads Common Cause Michigan.

“This gives an impression to the public that Todd Flood is entangled with the administration,” says McElroy.

Flood dismisses concerns about his past contributions, saying he gives to "Republicans and Democrats."

There are also concerns about the lack of a timetable for the investigation into a crisis that has already lasted for nearly two years. 

State Senator Jim Ananich, D-Flint, says residents here are tired of waiting for answers.

"The longer this takes to be done,the less trust they’re going to have in the results," says Ananich.

Attorney General Bill Schuette says he doesn’t want to create what he calls an “inaccurate” timeline for an investigation -- an investigation that will that could result in civil or even criminal charges.