LANSING, Mich. (AP) – A former prosecutor and a retired head of the Detroit FBI will play key roles in an investigation into Flint’s lead-tainted water as part of the effort to seek answers while also preventing conflicts of interest, Michigan’s attorney general announced Monday.
Republican Bill Schuette said Todd Flood, a former assistant prosecutor for Wayne County, which includes Detroit, will spearhead the investigation and serve as special counsel. He will be joined by Andy Arena, who led Detroit’s FBI office from 2007 until 2012.
Schuette, who had declined to investigate in December but later reversed course, gave no timetable for the investigation. It could focus on whether environmental laws were broken or if there was official misconduct in the process that left Flint’s drinking water contaminated.
Flood mostly declined to discuss which laws may have been broken, except to note there are prohibitions against misconduct by public officials. He said “a plethora of laws” potentially could be used to charge someone.
Both Flood and Arena will report to Schuette, who promised they would provide an “experienced and independent review of all the facts and circumstances.”
Flint switched from Detroit’s municipal water system while under emergency state management and began drawing from the Flint River in 2014 to save money, but the water was not properly treated. Residents have been urged to use bottled water and to put filters on faucets.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has been a focus of criticism, but Schuette said political affiliations would not be a factor.
“I don’t care what political stripe you might be. If laws have been broken and violations have occurred, then you pay the price,” Schuette said Monday.
Schuette announced the inquiry Jan. 15, more than four months after a Virginia Tech researcher said the Flint River was leaching lead from pipes into people’s homes because the water was not treated for corrosion.
Because the attorney general’s office represents both the people of Michigan and the state government, Schuette said having the special counsel will help prevent conflicts between Schuette and his investigation team and those defending the governor and state departments against water-related lawsuits.
Lawsuits against 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 avoid conflicts of interest.
Flood is currently in private law practice. Arena heads the Detroit Crime Commission, a nonprofit aimed at reducing criminal activity.
“Flint families and Michigan families will receive a full and independent report of our investigation,” Arena said in a statement.