With a number of staffers now confirming that Snyder not only knew of the toxic water situation in Flint a year ago, but had been asked to address it, all pretense of “plausible deniability” is gone

snyderdykehouse

Up until last night, when Rick Snyder’s office released an additional 2,528 pages of emails from his executive staff related to the Flint water crisis, I’d thought that our “let’s run government like a business” governor might possibly be able to escape the consequences of his actions. Now, though, I’m not so sure. Thanks to this most recent collection of emails, and the subsequent comments by former members of the Snyder administration, it would seem as though there’s now more than enough evidence to prove conclusively that he knew exactly what was happening in Flint, and yet chose not to act. And, for this reason, it’s not at all surprising that groups like Progress Michigan are now demanding that he leave office.

The following quote comes from Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.

“There’s no reasonable person who can believe at this point that every top advisor to Rick Snyder knew that there was an issue, but Snyder knew nothing. At worst he’s been lying all along and at best he’s the worst manager on the planet. Under either scenario he’s clearly unfit to lead our state and he should resign immediately… We knew that there was a reason the Governor was refusing to release these documents and now it is all too clear: to him Flint families weren’t as important as the bottom line on his spreadsheet. There are no more excuses and no more scapegoats. The Governor must resign.”

According to the report in today’s Detroit Free Press, it would seem that these most recent emails prove two things. First, they show that several in Snyder’s staff urged him, as far back as October 2014, to switch Flint back to Detroit water. And, second, they demonstrate that members of Snyder’s staff purposefully communicated about the toxicity of Flint’s water in ways that would keep their concerns private, and undiscoverable by means of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, indicating that they knew how terrible their actions would appear if made public. Here, with more on these items, is a clip from the Detroit Free Press.

…Two of Gov. Rick Snyder’s top lawyers privately advocated moving the city of Flint back to the Detroit water system because of quality problems only months after Flint began to draw its drinking water from the Flint River and treat it at its own plant in mid-2014, according to a review of e-mails made public Friday by the governor’s office.

The governor’s top aides discussed the city’s water-quality problems as early as the fall of 2014, according to a review of 550 e-mails released by the Snyder administration.

Valerie Brader, deputy legal counsel and senior policy adviser to Snyder, raised problems with Flint River water in an e-mail to the governor’s Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore and other top aides on Oct. 14, 2014…

(Braider) wrote in an October 2014 email to chief of staff Dennis Muchmore and other top aides to Gov. Rick Snyder, saying the return to Detroit’s water system for the city of Flint made economic and environmental sense, calling it an urgent matter to fix…

She argued for returning the city to Detroit’s system drawn from Lake Huron, saying it made economic and environmental sense for an “urgent matter to fix.” She cited bacterial contamination in the treated river water and reduced quality that caused “GM to leave due to rusted parts.”

“As you know there have been problems with the Flint water quality since they left the DWSD (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department), which was a decision by the emergency manager there,” Brader wrote to Muchmore and three other top Snyder aides.

Michael Gadola, then the governor’s legal counsel, echoed those concerns in an e-mail responding to Brader and sent to the governor’s top aides. He called the idea of using the Flint River as a drinking water source “downright scary.”

Flint “should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control,” Gadola wrote 12 minutes after Brader’s e-mail…

And that’s not the worst of it. The Free Press tracked down Muchmore, who now works for a law firm, and he confirmed that these concerns had been discussed with the Governor. “We shared them,” he said. But, in spite of this, no action was taken for almost a year. Worse yet, the people of Flint were told repeatedly over this period of time that their water was safe to drink.

When asked why no action had been taken by the Governor, Muchmore, according to the Free Press, indicated that cost was a major factor.

To my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve had people inside the Governor’s office telling us that they had gone to him as early as October 2014, asking him to take action, only to have nothing done. Yes, we knew several weeks ago that one of Snyder’s top aids had been told of a possible link between the deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that had hit the region and the drinking water being pulled from the Flint River, but, at least in that instance, evidence never surface that the Governor had been informed. And, now, we have that… we actually have people going on the record and saying that Snyder not only knew what was happening, but instructed them not to act.

As for the attempts to hide these items from public view, here’s a quote from one of Brader’s emails. “I have not copied DEQ (the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) on this message for FOIA reasons,” she said, referring to the fact that, if the MDEQ had been copied, their conversation about the water’s toxicity could be discoverable by the press. (Michigan, as we’ve discussed before, is one of only two states where the governor’s office and state legislature are exempted from FOIA laws. The MDEQ, however, does not share that protection.) So, it would seem, we had an administration that was more interested in keeping their concerns quiet than actually working with the people at the MDEQ who would be best positioned to deal with such things.

As my friend Jim just reminded me, this most recent revelation serves as a good reminder of how incredibly fortunate we are to still have something of an investigative press here in Michigan. If not for the people working for the likes of the Detroit Free Press, we might have had to be satisfied with the narrative of events as put forward by Snyder’s “independent” commission. “Snyder’s response to the ‘What did you know and when did you know it?’ question was to say that he looked forward to reading his commissioned report,” my friend Jim just reminded me. “Thank goodness,” he went on to say, “we have enough of an independent press left that Snyder can’t control this story.”

At the rate things are now happening, I’m not sure how much longer Snyder can stay in office. And, to be honest, I don’t know if he really even wants to at this point, especially as he’s scheduled to testify win D.C. before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on March 17. If I were a betting man, I’d say that he’ll announce plans to step down before then, saying something to the effect of, “Given the fact that the Democrats have chosen to politicize this terrible tragedy in Flint, I feel as though I have no choice but to leave office so that we can put this distraction behind us, and focus on serving those who so desperately need our help.” Up to a few weeks ago I was somewhat torn as to whether or not we should expend our effort attempting to drive Snyder from office, but he’s done very little since then to prove to me that he’s capable of either telling the truth or helping the people who he’s hurt. So, if you’ve got a petition ready, I’m willing to sign… just in case he doesn’t walk away on his own.

[The lead paint portrait at the at the top of the page of Rick Snyder was painted by local artist Michael Dykehouse, who I interviewed here a few days ago.]

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17 Comments

  1. Paul Heckbert
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Mark: thanks for your continued coverage of this. I spot two spelling errors in the same sentence: quite-quiet, and MEDQ-MDEQ.

  2. Demetrius
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Yesterday, somebody said it best: At this point there are only two possibilities – either Snyder knew, and is lying, OR he didn’t know, in which case he is the worst manager ever.

    Either way, Snyder has absolutely no credibility left, and needs to resign immediately.

  3. Meta
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Snyder apologized again, so it’s OK.

    Emails show top Snyder aides wanted to switch the city away from the Flint River in October of 2014. But that didn’t happen until the fall of 2015.

    Snyder apologized again for the way his administration handled Flint’s water crisis.

    “There were various flags but all the dots weren’t connected the way I wish they were,” says Snyder.

    Snyder blames a lack of “urgency” and “common sense” in dealing with the problem, which he insists they are addressing now.

    Read more:
    http://michiganradio.org/post/snyder-apologizes-again-wake-new-emails

  4. Jim
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The Free Press’ recent reporting on this story has been great. The News has been good too.

    As MM readers know, Snyder’s response to the ‘What did you know and when did you know it?’ question was to say that he looked forward to reading his commissioned report. Thank goodness we have enough of an independent press left that Snyder can’t control this story.

  5. Posted February 27, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Great point, Jim. I’ll add this to the post itself.

  6. NCM
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Nice of you to write a little resignation speech for him.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    http://imgur.com/3A6EK4F

  8. Kit
    Posted February 27, 2016 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Rachel Maddow is all over this too.

    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/snyder-out-of-scapegoats-for-flint-crisis-632406595527

  9. Lynne
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Up until recently, I have felt that a recall effort or pressure on the governor to resign was misplaced because of who his replacement would be. However, it is starting to look more and more like that might be a pill worth swallowing.

  10. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Justice must be served.

  11. Anne
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I met with Valerie Brader just as she was getting pulled into the Snyder administration, to discuss advancing the clean energy economy in Michigan. I walked away from our meeting extremely impressed by her capabilities and her interests in clean energy and environmental social justice, but also sadly thinking that the Snyder administration was probably not a great place for her. I’m disappointed to see her involvement in this and while I understand a desire not to bite the hand that feeds you, it saddens me that she chose not to blow the whistle on this earlier especially considering the repercussions on the people of Flint.

  12. Meta
    Posted February 29, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Progress Michigan is still on it.

    Proof emerged over the weekend that Gov. Rick Snyder dragged his feet for months in declaring the Flint Water Crisis a disaster and lied to the public about why he chose to delay.

    Choosing to not declare a state of emergency in Flint further delayed critical resources to people who continue to struggle to get basic water needs met.

    Snyder officials claimed they needed an official request from the county to act, but that was an outright lie.

    The new emails reveal that Snyder administration officials were discussing an emergency declaration months before the governor chose to do so. In fact, a captain with emergency and homeland security services wrote in an email, “As you know, the Governor can declare at any time for any reason.”

    This lie goes to the heart of Snyder’s painfully slow and inadequate response to the Flint Water Crisis.

    Snyder declared an emergency on January 5 — nearly a month after newly-elected Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared the city was in a state of emergency and nearly two years after the initial water switch, which led to protests and complaints from residents about the murky and disgusting water.

    In his emergency declaration, Gov. Snyder said, “The health and welfare of Flint residents is a top priority.” Well, if that was the case, why did he delay for months while people continued to face a shortage of necessary resources? More rhetoric masqueraded as compassion, which falls away under scrutiny to reveal public posturing steeped in self-serving political calculation with no real empathy for the people affected. It’s just a lie.

    Snyder needs to resign immediately. Revelation after revelation shows us just how badly he and his entire administration bungled the response to this crisis, which, he too, is responsible for creating.

    Read more:
    http://www.progressmichigan.org/2016/02/a-damning-declaration/

  13. Paula Gardner
    Posted March 1, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    When considering the role of media with this story, I hope you’ll all take a look at the coverage by Ron Fonger. He’s been pursuing it as a local story with the Flint Journal since the water switch – and it’s not true that ‘no one’ was covering it before the story blew up. A lot of us in SE Michigan had no reason to watch Flint coverage for a long time, so we all missed his reporting. But it’s there and strong, and part of the body of work by many media outlets that keeps pushing this into political crisis and community solutions.
    Here’s a bit about Ron and his coverage: https://upvoted.com/2016/01/24/meet-the-flint-journalist-whos-written-250-stories-on-the-water-crisis/

  14. Leona M.
    Posted March 1, 2016 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Article II
    In the present Convention, genocide means *any* of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    Article III
    The following acts shall be punishable:

    (a) Genocide;
    (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
    (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
    (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
    (e) Complicity in genocide.
    http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CrimeOfGenocide.aspx

  15. Meta
    Posted March 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    According to Progress Michigan, it looks like Rick was using a different address to communicate about this.

    EMAIL: Snyder Knew About Flint Water Crisis in February 2015, Email Not Released to Public on January 20

    Email shows Snyder setting up meetings with top staffers to discuss “Flint water”

    LANSING — An email sent by Governor Rick Snyder shows that he planned to discuss “Flint water” with top staffers in February 2015 — nearly nine months before the governor claims to have known about a water crisis in Flint.

    The message was sent on February 17, 2015 to the Rick for Michigan campaign email account — rather than the official state email account — of Allison Scott, the executive director to the governor, and shows that Rick Snyder wanted to personally discuss the “Flint water” situation with top officials in his administration, among other issues. The email seems to be proof that Gov. Snyder lied each and every time he claimed that his staff never brought the crisis to him and that it was not on his radar.

    “Gov. Snyder wants us to believe that he knew nothing of the problems in Flint and that he was poorly served by his staffers. This email shows that Snyder was not only aware of the Flint Water Crisis but was concerned enough to discuss it with high-ranking staff in February of 2015,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Every time Snyder is confronted with news about this crisis his excuse has been that he didn’t know — he can’t say that this time. This email is the smoking gun people have been looking for and proves that Snyder knew about and discussed the Flint water situation with top-level staffers months before taking any action.”

    The email was not included in the January 20 email dump which calls into question his claim that he has released all of his “2014 and 2015 emails regarding Flint” following the State of the State.

    The email also shows that Rick Snyder used his campaign email system to conduct state business with his top staffers. Progress Michigan is calling on Gov. Snyder to immediately release all emails sent to and from the Snyder campaign email system by staffers who work in state government. Furthermore, the Michigan Legislature should act now to remove the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption for the legislature and governor’s office.

    “The people of Michigan deserve to know the full truth about what happened in Flint and they’ve been denied that by Gov. Snyder for far too long. Snyder has abused the public trust and can no longer serve in the leadership role needed to fix this crisis. He needs to resign immediately,” Scott continued. “The people of Flint and Michigan deserve more than just sound bites and lip service about transparency and accountability, they deserve action. Just like the people in Flint have been saying, the pipes and Gov. Rick Snyder need to be replaced.”

    The email sent by Snyder came a week after an email, which was recently released by Progress Michigan, showed that the Snyder administration was bringing in water coolers for a state office building in Flint while continuing to tell residents their water was safe to drink.

    Read more:
    http://www.progressmichigan.org/2016/03/39021/

  16. Meta
    Posted March 2, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Snyder has hired a criminal defense attorney.

    http://tinyurl.com/gmdoqau

  17. Posted March 15, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Watch the hearings LIVE NOW here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWER3Qpkdw8

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  1. […] to others and not being accountable,” Representative Cartwright said to Snyder. “Plausible deniability only works when it’s plausible, and you were not in a medically induced coma for a […]

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