WUOMFM

Snyder's office knew about Legionnaires' outbreak for months, didn't tell public

Feb 4, 2016

Gov. Snyder at a Flint water press conference in January.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Emails released Thursday show a top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder knew about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Flint and its possible links to the Flint River, almost a year before Snyder says he found out about it.

The emails are to Harvey Hollins, who Snyder just picked to lead the state’s response team in Flint. Back in 2011, Hollins was named director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives. That means he was a " principal adviser to the governor on matters related to urban and regional economic initiatives that contribute to job growth." 

Back in March 2015, Hollins got a string of emails about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Flint, and its potential link to Flint's water.

But it was another 10 months before Snyder announced the outbreak at a January 2016 press conference, saying he’d just been informed about the surge of Legionnaires' cases.

The emails are being released by the liberal group Progress Michigan. 

“How many times is the governor allowed to say that he didn’t know before we get to legitimately ask who the hell is running this state?” says Lonnie Scott, director of Progress Michigan. “Are we to believe that a top staffer with years of experience would not inform Gov. Snyder of a possibly deadly situation? Either the governor is covering up his knowledge of this crisis or his governing culture does not allow for important information to flow from his top advisers to his desk.”

You can read the emails here.

Governor Snyder's office sent out the following statement Wednesday at 5:30 pm:

"As the Governor has said repeatedly, and the record bears this out, he was not briefed on this issue until January 2016. He took action promptly and released the information publicly. 

The emails from the Department of Environmental Quality claim the information is “premature and prejudice” and that attributing it to the river is “beyond irresponsible.”

When HarveyHollins received the March email, he requested the DEQ look into the concerns, check with its experts, and get the facts. If the concerns were determined to be credible, the director was to bring the issue to the attention of the Governor.

The issue was not brought to the Governor’s attention until January of this year. Gov. Snyder has made changes at the department to address these concerns and change the culture to best protect the well-being of Michiganders."

*This post was last updated on Feb. 4 at 11:30 a.m.