LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — A former prosecutor and a retired head of the Detroit FBI will play key roles in an investigation into Flint’s water crisis as part of an effort to seek answers and prevent potential conflicts of interest in the ongoing probe, Michigan’s attorney general announced Monday.
Bill Schuette said Todd Flood, a former assistant prosecutor for Wayne County, which includes Detroit, will spearhead Schuette’s investigation and serve as special counsel. He’ll be joined by Andy Arena, who led Detroit’s FBI office from 2007 until 2012.
“We will do our job thoroughly and let the chips fall where they may. … This investigation is about beginning the road back, to rebuild, regain and restore trust in government,” Schuette said in a statement before Monday’s news conference.
He gave no timetable for the investigation, which he opened more than four months after a Virginia Tech researcher said the Flint River was leaching lead from pipes into people’s homes because it was not treated for corrosion.
He also addressed concerns about Flint residents paying their water bills.
“If you can’t drink the water, you shouldn’t have to pay for it,” said Schuette.
He promised the state of Michigan and residents in Flint a thorough investigation.
“I don’t care what political stripe you might be if laws have been broken…then you’ll pay the price,” said Schuette.
>>Watch Schuette’s entire press conference by clicking on the video player below. App users can tap here.
Flood, who currently is a lawyer in private practice handling both criminal and civil cases, said it’s a “privilege to have this opportunity to serve.”
“We’re going to make sure we get the work done right. It’s not about time, it’s about doing it right,” said Flood.
Arena currently heads the Detroit Crime Commission, a nonprofit aimed at reducing criminal activity. Both will report to Schuette.
“Flint families and Michigan families will receive a full and independent report of our investigation,” Arena said.
The attorney general’s office represents both the people of Michigan and state government, so Schuette said the move will prevent conflicts between the investigation team and the team defending the governor and state departments against water-related lawsuits.
Lawsuits against Gov. Rick Snyder and the state will be supervised by Chief Deputy Attorney General Carol Isaacs and Chief Legal Counsel Matthew Schneider. Schuette noted there was a similar effort during Detroit’s bankruptcy case to ensure that conflicts of interest were avoided.
But Democrats are questioning whether Flood’s investigation will be impartial. They said he donated thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of Schuette and Snyder, both Republicans.
Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon says Schuette’s appointment of Flood is “incomprehensible.” Democratic state Rep. LaTonya Garrett is asking U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to open a federal investigation instead.
Flood said he has given money to Democrats, too, and such contributions will have no bearing on his ability to conduct an impartial investigation. Schuette says it “doesn’t matter” who Flood has given money to and a thorough probe will be done.
Schuette, a Republican, announced Jan. 15 he would investigate what, if any, Michigan laws were violated in the process that left Flint’s drinking water contaminated with lead.
The financially struggling city switched from Detroit’s municipal water system and began drawing from the Flint River in 2014 to save money. The water wasn’t properly treated to prevent lead from pipes from leaching into the supply.
Residents have been urged to use bottled water and to put filters on faucets.