By Brandon Hall
As Flint's families accused him of murdering their friends and loved ones, surely Jeff Wright must have known the jig was up-his evil house of cards was collapsing.
“You have killed people,” Flint resident Getrude Saunders told him at a meeting of the Karmegondi Water Authority (KWA) earlier this year. “You have taken life freely with no problems.”
“We wouldn’t even be in this predicament if it wasn’t for the switch,” another heartbroken resident said.
So...who is Jeff Wright? What in the hell is the "KWA?"
The controversy over the Flint Water Crisis has flooded airwaves and newspapers nationwide for months, with calls for the prosecution of Gov. Snyder popular in far-left circles as Flint residents are used as political props and photo ops.
However, the most critical component of the scandal remains almost completely uncovered by the media: Jeff Wright's pivotal role in the devastation that Flint families have suffered.
Wright, the Democrat Genesee County Drain Commissioner, is a former FBI public corruption target subsequently turned rat who was determined to see Flint end its decades old relationship with Detroit for water so it would switch and join the Karmegondi Water Authority, the controversial plan he created to take water from Lake Huron and distribute it to Flint, then sell it to neighboring municipalities.
“KWA is, in the most basic terms, an 80-mile system of pipes (60-66 inches in diameter) and two pumping stations that will send water to Flint and Genesee County for treatment and sale to other communities,” writes the Detroit News."Wright has been the driving force behind KWA. Prior to his arrival as Genesee County’s drain commissioner in 2000, his predecessors had looked at the reliability issue in the late 1990s, but little came of their efforts.”
What's at stake with KWA? $300 million for Wright and his buddies.
Disturbingly, a WMP investigation of Wright’s campaign finance records reveals that as Flint's kids and residents drank poisoned water, Wright cashed in, banking nearly $200,000 in recent years from multiple contractors who are making MILLIONS from the KWA.
WMP's analysis goes back to 2006-the same time range Attorney General Schuette is looking at.
According to the Detroit Free Press:
"Wright, the KWA, and other figures in and around the public health catastrophe are under increased scrutiny in the wake of the crisis, which has exposed an unknown number of children and other Flint residents to lead poisoning and may also be linked to outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County that have resulted in nine deaths. Andrew Arena, a former Detroit FBI director who is heading up Attorney General Bill Schuette's investigation of the crisis, told the Free Press editorial board Thursday his investigation extends back to 2006, when the KWA, slated for completion this summer, was in its infancy."
One of those contractors was a top contributor to Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick ,and was sued by Macomb County for ripping off $16 million from Macomb residents in a disastorous Sterling Heights project.
The firm , D'Agostini and Sons, was even named in the federal indictment against Kilpatrick. That's right: Wright's handpicked contractor for KWA agreed to split profits from Kilpatrick's top moneyman Bobby Feguson!
WMP's investigation of campaign finance documents filed with the Genesee County Clerk reveals the firm’s partners gave Wright a stunning $27,900 since 2007...
According to the Oakland Press:
“Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and more than two dozen contractors for allegedly overcharging the county by $25.5 million on a sewer repair project in Sterling Heights. The 19-page lawsuit is primarily based on a U.S. Justice Department indictment filed against many of the same defendants that claim the ex-mayor fraudulently funneled millions of dollars to a friend, Bobby Ferguson, through a scheme of inflated invoices and charging for work not performed."
According to Crain’s:
“The civil lawsuit alleges that D'Agostini "was aware of and participated in the scheme by, among other things, presenting and receiving payment upon grossly inflated and inaccurate invoices."
The federal indictment claims Ferguson told Kilpatrick in September 2004 that a "Subcontractor DA" had "wanted to share the work with Ferguson on a 50/50 basis (and) Kilpatrick had to instruct (then DWSD Director Victor) Mercado about the arrangement."
D'Agostini & Sons allegedly collected nearly $16.4 million after agreeing with the Kilpatrick defendants to inflate invoices, "so long as Ferguson received an amount equal to the amount to be paid" to D'Agostini, according to the Macomb lawsuit. A majority of the other businesses named as defendants were D'Agostini subcontractors."
Another firm connected to Wright is Lockwood, Andrews, and Newmann. They have been charged by Attorney General Bill Schuette as being culpable for the crisis. LAN gave Wright over $15,000 since 2010, WMP has learned…
According to MLive, LAN "violated their legal duties and caused the Flint Water crisis to occur, continue and worsen," the complaint states. "As a result, the state of Michigan suffered damaged for past, ongoing, and future harm to public health, destruction of public property, and cost to public resources."
Rowe Engineering is a LAN subcontractor. They were busted arguing for a temporary switch to FLint River Water in an email that went "missing."
According to the Detroit Free Press:
"A report from Flint-based Rowe Professional Services was referenced in a 2014 briefing the DEQ sent Snyder. The briefing paper said Rowe in August 2013 had “completed an engineering proposal for improvements to the City of Flint WTP that would allow continuous operation … using the Flint River” until the new KWA (Karegnondi Water Authority) pipeline to Lake Huron was completed."
Rowe also aggressively pushed KWA to the FLint City Council back in 2011...
"Pumping the water from Lake Huron would be cheaper over time than buying water from Detroit, which the city has done for decades, or treating Flint River water, according to the analysis done by Rowe Engineering and presented to the Flint City Council tonight," MLive wrote.
Rowe gave Wright $31,000 since 2006!
Spicer Group is another Wright connected firm helping KWA. They were tasked with conniving regulators into approving KWA, and have given Wright $18,000 since 2006 according to a WMP analysis of campaign finance records.
According to reports:
"By June, KWA and Saginaw, Mich.-based environmental consultant Spicer Group convinced regulators that open cutting was less disruptive to the species, requiring only "two weeks to get in and get out as opposed to the eight weeks tunneling could have required," says KWA deputy CEO John O'Brien. By mid-July, Zito Construction, Grand Blanc, Mich., began installing 36-in.-dia ductile iron Class 150 pipe along a 14-mile stretch from Genessee to Lapeer counties."
Zito Construction-just mentioned above-is also a KWA contractor who has been a consistent donor to Wright. Zito gave Wright $13,000 since 2007…
E+L Construction is another KWA contractor, they will do the work for the KWA pump station. They have given Wright $6,400 since 2014, WMP's investigation reveals.
Also: the American Cast Iron Pipe Company is the contractor for much of the piping for KWA. They have given Wright $24,000 since 2006...
Wade Trim and AECOM are "program managers for the project," and of course, both are Wright donors, WMP's analysis shows.
Wade Trim has given Wright $34,700 since 2006.
AECOM has given $18,000....
Much has been made about who was at fault, the locals or the state. A bombshell email sheds light on that issue, claiming Flint's Emergency Manager, appointed by Gov. Snyder, worked with the local politicians and together, they finalized KWA.
"John O'Malia, an engineering consultant involved in promoting the KWA project, said in a January 2012 e-mail to Liane Shekter Smith, who has since been fired as head of the DEQ's drinking water section and is facing criminal charges related to the public health catastrophe, that the Flint emergency manager "has given powers back to Mayor and Council to make the decision on KWA as a precaution if the EM court challenge holds up. This will enable the Mayor and Council to approve the KWA agreement and not be challenged in court!"
Hammer noted that in viewing the video of the March 2013 Flint City Council meeting where the KWA project was approved in a 7-1 vote, council members express confusion and consternation about why, on this one issue, the EM had asked them to make the decision. "If one believes the O'Malia memo, the City Council vote on KWA was a strategic ploy with no legal effect," unless the EM law was struck down.
You guessed it: O'Malia's company is a Wright donor, paying him $1,500 in multiple donations since 2006!
That brings the total of KWA contractor donations for Wright to over $188,000!
>>>Also: “Wright's drain commission also had a contract in 2007 with Synagro, a sludge company that was also at the center of the Detroit City Hall corruption case. Wright said his office has used Synagro periodically, through competitive bidding, apply waste products to land. Wright said he had no dealings with James Rosendall, the former Synagro official who was sent to prison for bribing Detroit officials.”
A WMP investigation reveals that despite Wright claiming he had no dealings with Rosendall, he was in fact yet ANOTHER corrupt Wright donor!
Campaign finance records reveal Rosendall and his wife donated $2500 to Wright from 2006- 2009...
What did he do with all that money? He wrote himself "loan repayment" checks and also lined the pockets of local and state officials like Dwayne Walling and Sheldon Neely in order to get their support for KWA!
Check out some of his donations below using KWA blood money:
Flint residents aren’t the only people who want answers from Wright-the State’s Flint Water Crisis Task Force does, too.
According to Michigan Radio:
“The state panel examining Flint's lead tainted water is looking at the pipeline deal that some say was the catalyst of the crisis. Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright walked the panel through the history of the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline… But Flint city administrator Sylvester Jones says there are still questions that must be answered.
"There was a number of things that are just not possible to get the answers to because I guess they didn’t come prepared to share,” Jones said after Friday’s meeting, “But we’ll get those answers….more conversations to come.”
According to the Detroit News:
“This whole issue of the KWA — in an area that had overcapacity for water delivery, and a region of the state that was impoverished — we think there needs to be a full investigation of the history of KWA,” said task force co-chairman Ken Sikkema, former Michigan Senate Majority Leader."
The alleged cost savings touted by Wright and KWA supporters is iffy at best.
According to the MSU institute of Public Policy and Social Research:
“(T)he cost savings provided by the KWA are truly negligible, and debatable. The graph below shows the projected cost savings for the switch versus DWSD, given the water rate offered in the final negotiations between DWSD and the City of Flint. This graph was culled from the final offer from DWSD to the City of Flint.”
The facts contained in this report also seem to back Kwame Kilpatrick’s claim that former Gov. Jennifer Granholm was well aware of issues in Flint. Clearly, Kwame-connected contractors have been knee-deep in the Flint water issues, so it makes perfect sense he would know what was going on and evidently, he says that Granholm did, too…
According to a previous WMP article:
"Former Michigan Governor, Jennifer Granholm, was well aware of the issues with the Flint Water Department, and their inability to produce contaminant free water moving forward, nor afford the equipment & technology to do so," Kilpatrick said."
It was Granholm’s MDEQ who first approved KWA in 2009…
“Karegnondi officials applied for, and received, a permit from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality to withdraw up to 85 million gallons of water a day from Lake Huron. Signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, it was the first withdrawal permit issued under the terms of 2008’s Great Lakes Compact.”
Back to Wright, who is no stranger to controversy.
Once the target of an FBI public corruption investigation in 2004, Wright became an informant for the feds, ratting out Flint political consultant Sam Riddle in a conversation taped by the FBI.
Former Genessee County Prosecutor said Wright "didn't become an informant out of civic duty," he did it to save his own ass. As the Riddle scandal died down, Wright was finally able to escalate his dream project, the KWA…
According to MLive:
"Former county prosecutor Arthur Busch says there are several possible ways that county Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright became a confidential source for the FBI.
But there's one thing Busch feels certain of: "I'm sure of one thing. Jeff Wright didn't do it out of civic duty."
Wright was identified in federal court documents this week as a confidential informant for the FBI and said today that he agreed to assist the agency in its public corruption investigation of Flint native Sam Riddle.
Busch said he turned over information about Wright's alleged connection to former Burton developer Blake Rizzo to the FBI after a public corruption investigation he helped carry out in 2004...
The former prosecutor said he turned the information he had over to federal investigators and left duplicate information in a bankers box for incoming Prosecutor David Leyton with a note that wished him well."
|Jeff Wright holds a hardhat with pictures of all KWA contractors on it|
That wasn't Wright's first FBI issue. According to MLive:
"Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright's assistance in a federal bribery case out of Detroit wasn't his first brush with the FBI.
Federal agents in 2005 confiscated Wright's campaign finance documents from the county clerk's office as part of a federal public corruption investigation into Burton city officials in which two people were sentenced, according to Flint Journal files."
But WAIT-THERE’S MORE! Before he was targeting Riddle and ratting him out, Wright had Riddle on the payroll to help lobby for KWA!!!
According to the Detroit Free Press
“Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright, who also is the CEO of the KWA, hired Riddle as a $2,000-a-month consultant in 2007 and 2008 to lobby the Detroit City Council in connection with the planned pipeline.”
Former Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur Busch told the Free Press this week he wanted to charge Wright with money laundering in 2005 but was unable to do so because of legal issues involving the statute of limitations...
"What I'm surprised at is how Wright has avoided any scrutiny," Busch said Monday. "He's in charge of water for the whole ... county."
Whatever evidence Wright may have gathered against Riddle was never presented in court. Riddle said he became suspicious of Wright working with law enforcement when Wright began telling him, "I'll pay whatever it costs" to get the Detroit council to share its withdrawal permit.”
Riddle also told MLive that "I don't lose any swag with punks that want to serve as informants," Riddle said. "I just keep rolling on straight ahead."
It looks like Donald Trump hit the nail on the head when he announced he'll be visitng Flint.
Commenting on the crisis, Trump said “And probably they wanted it to happen because companies were going to make a lot of money from the switch,” Trump said. “That’s probably what happened, who knows?”
(>>>All Jeff Wright Campaign Finance Records Can Be VERIFIED and viewed HERE)