Wednesday, February 14, 2018

On Duty? Attorney General Schuette's Flint Water Flip Flop Is Disturbing

By Brandon Hall
(Email Him At

Attorney General Schuette likes to talk tough about the Flint Water Crisis these days while running for Governor, but that wasn't always the case. 

Back in 2015, Schuette wanted nothing to do with what happened in the poor, working class city.

Mr. Schuette now audaciously proclaims on Twitter that "Had government leaders listened sooner to real people, we could have slowed or stopped crises like Flint or MSU. As governor, I will meet and hear from real people to make sure this doesn't happen."


Let's rewind to mid January of 2016.

According to WEYI:

"On Friday, Attorney General Bill Schuette called for an investigation into the Flint water crisis. Just three weeks ago, however, Schuette had declined to take any action when asked by a Flint representative to do so.

Schuette's office said that they will now look to see if any Michigan laws were broken. Schuette described the Flint water crisis as a "human tragedy."

In September of 2015 State Representative Sheldon Neeley asked Schuette to investigate the Flint water crisis. In a letter to Schuette's office, Neeley said, "I make this request to urge the Attorney general's Office to investigate and determine if the City of Flint and/or the State of Michigan and its agents have culpability and responsibility for this unfortunate problem. "
On December 22, 2015 the Attorney General's Office sent a response to Neeley. In a response to Neeley, Rusty Hills, the Senior Advisor from the Executive Division, told Neeley, "As the Attorney General explained, given the multiple reviews by federal and state agencies, and the pending and potential federal court actions, we do not believe it necessary to conduct an additional investigation."
NBC25 News has reached out to the Attorney General's Office and asked what changed between December 22 of last year and now. Schuette's office tells NBC25 that they have no comment."
That timeline puts Schuette's initial refusal to investigate around the time right before Christmas.
Then, a Christmas miracle! 

The cameras showed up, big league. From every corner of Michigan and all across America, the media descended on Flint, and miraculously, Schuette had a change of heart.

"This morning, I am formally announcing an investigation into the Flint water crisis," Schuette announced at a press conference a few weeks after saying no investigation was needed, cameras were flashing and reporters were buzzing. "The situation in Flint is a human tragedy in which families are struggling with even the most basic parts of daily life. While everyone acknowledges that mistakes were made, my duty as attorney general requires that I conduct this investigation. Without fear or favor, I will carry out my responsibility to enforce the laws meant to protect Michigan families, and represent the citizens of Flint."

It's almost comedic the difference a couple weeks and a few dozen more cameras can make, isn't it?

The people of Flint are not laughing, though. Go ask real people on the street there what they think of the "investigation," ask them if the Attorney General is "on duty," see the reaction you get.

One Flint activist tweeted, "Schuette behaves as if the internet doesn't exist. Archived articles hold the history of your flip flopping," adding "Flint residents' trauma isn't a talking point or a launching pad for your political campaign. Stop exploiting us for your political career."

Long before Neeley's high profile request, average Michiganders desperate for help pleaded with Schuette's office for assistance, but no one cared.

According to the Detroit News:

"Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office received at least 15 complaints addressing water quality concerns in Flint — some sent a year before Schuette announced a criminal investigation into the lead contamination crisis, according to documents shared with The Detroit News.

Between April 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2015, 14 people contacted the Attorney General’s Office addressing Flint water concerns, according to records first obtained by the Michigan Information & Research Service. The residents couldn’t be identified because their names were blacked out.

A handful of people sent complaints on Jan. 29, 2015 — a year before Schuette announced an investigation into the matter, and eight months before Genesee County issued a health warning about Flint’s drinking water. Six complaints were sent between Jan. 29, 2015, and April 9, 2015."

At least one complaint wasn't turned over by Schuette's office, meaning there could be many more than just the 14 Schuette claims.

"Flint activist Rhonda Chisum-Kelso shared a 15th complaint with The Detroit News that wasn’t included in the original Freedom of Information Act request, which she sent on Feb. 25, 2015.

In the complaint she wrote that her “civil rights are being violated by local government servicing substandard water supply from the Flint River while surrounding county residents still receive Lake Huron Water from Detroit.”

Others complained to Schuette’s office about a bad smell and water discoloration or about their high monthly water bills coupled with suspicions that the water was unsafe...

The Attorney General’s Office had no immediate comment on why Chisum-Kelso’s complaint wasn’t included in the open records request. Chisum-Kelso said she believes the government doesn’t care about people in Flint. She is disabled and said she has a 13-year-old daughter with a mental disability.

“We’ve already been left for dead ... declared a permanent underclass by the government,” Chisum-Kelso said. “We’re aware of what people think of us.”

Flash forward to the MSU "investigation" now underway by Mr. Schuette, a story in itself for another time. 

The case mirrors Flint in at least one prominent way, the fact that the Trustees had to BEG him to initiate an investigation after over a year is appalling, unacceptable, and outrageous. He was reluctant to do his job until the media blitz lit off, just like Flint.
With journalists eager to break news on MSU, Schuette couldn't help himself. Apparently, he had a staffer leak to the press that investigators would be coming to seize documents from the University, and cameras were already in place by the time they showed up. 

Interim MSU President John Engler slammed Schuette for the cheap stunt, subsequently asking him to be removed from his list of endorsements for his Gubernatorial campaign.

Prosecuting cases like Flint and MSU for media attention is not only wrong, it's dangerous and disturbing. All Michiganders should worry when our state's top law enforcement officer conducts business in such a sleazy manner. Mr. Schuette has undoubtedly given the Democrats a loaded arsenal of weapons to use against him in November if he wins the Republican nomination for Governor in August.

Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.

>>>Email him at

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