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Snyder's support of Flint officials charged in probe adds to rivalry with AG Schuette

Jun 14, 2017

The latest updates in the Flint water crisis criminal case put Governor Rick Snyder and state Attorney General Bill Schuette at odds once again. 

The charges announced Wednesday against Nick Lyon, head of the state health department, and Dr. Eden Wells, Michigan's chief medical examiner, only added to the leaders' infamous rivalry.

Gov. Snyder stated his support of Lyon and Wells quickly after Schuette's office publicly announced the charges. Snyder praised Lyon's record at the Department of Health and Human Services, and cited Schuette by name:

Director Lyon and Dr. Eden Wells, like every other person who has been charged with a crime by Bill Schuette, are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Snyder went on to criticize the Attorney General's office for treating other state employees unfairly:

Some state employees were charged over a year ago and have been suspended from work since that time. They still have not had their day in court. That is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged. Director Lyon and Dr. Wells have been and continue to be instrumental in Flint's recovery. They have my full faith and confidence, and will remain on duty at DHHS.

The Attorney General's office has not responded with a comment on the governor's statement.

A history of rivalry

This is yet another episode in the rivalry between the governor and the attorney general.

In January, the attorney general filed a legal brief in support of Flint residents suing the state in order to continue receiving free bottled water. This put him at odds with the Snyder administration, which tried to dismiss a court order to deliver the water.

And in June 2016, Schuette accused Snyder of hiring lawyers at public expense that were holding up the criminal investigation of the Flint water crisis.

Soon after, a judge ordered that state officials could not have any contact with the Genesee County Health Department and McLaren Hospital of Flint over new cases of Legionnaires' Disease. Snyder criticized the attorney general for limiting the ability of state health officials to do their jobs.

Other conflicts include Schuette's refusal to represent Snyder in his appeal of a teacher pension-related court case last summer and the AG's opposition to a 2015 ballot measure promoted by Snyder to raise the state gas tax.

Some perceive the Snyder/Schuette feud to be a way for the attorney general to distance himself from the governor. Schuette is expected to run for governor in 2018, although he has not yet formally announced his candidacy.