FLINT, Mich (WLNS) – An 18-month investigation into the Flint water crisis says former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and his office attempted to pay off sick Flint residents and silenced a whistleblower.
According to a report by VICE, the five-year cover-up was overseen by Snyder and his top officials to prevent news of Flint’s deadly water from going public as well as attempts to limit the damage after the crisis made global headlines.
During the inauguration of his successor in January 2019, the report claims Snyder approached Karen Weaver, who was then the mayor of Flint to ask whether she could meet with Congressman Elijah Cummings.
“You have a lot of influence with him,” Weaver remembered Snyder saying to her about Cummings, according to the report.
As the chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Committee, Cummings led the charge for information about when Snyder and his administration first learned of the Legionella pneumophila bacterial outbreak in Flint.
Snyder testified to Congress that he first became aware of Legionella in January 2016, but Harvey Hollins, the director of the state’s Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives office, contradicted the governor, testifying to Congress that he informed Snyder about Flint’s Legionella outbreak in December 2015.
The reports claims that at the inauguration, Weaver said Snyder asked her to get Cummings to “back off” from investigating him.
Weaver also said Cummings wanted Snyder back to Congress for additional questioning. Cummings’ death in October 2019 prevented that from occurring.
Between 2014 and 2015, the waterborne bacterial disease may have killed at least 115 people. In addition to the outbreak, Flint’s water supply was contaminated with lead and other heavy metals, harmful bacteria, carcinogens, and other toxic components.
Snyder and his administration were investigated by a team led by special prosecutor Todd Flood from 2016 to 2019. The investigation may explain why the governor’s office’s legal fees, paid for by state taxpayers, came to at least $8.5 million in the years after the water crisis made national headlines.
Investigative subpoena documents obtained by VICE, along with details from sources with knowledge of the Flint water criminal prosecution include:
- Snyder had knowledge of the Legionella outbreak in Flint as early as October 2014, six months after the water switch—which is also 16 months earlier than he claimed to have learned of the deadly outbreak in testimony under oath before Congress.
- An investigation by a team led by special prosecutor Todd Flood concluded that the administration had “committed conspiracies of ongoing crimes, like an organized crime unit.”
- Snyder and officials in his administration attempted to silence some of Flint’s most vocal residents, as well as the mayor at the time who refused to comply with his demands to say the water was adequate to drink.