Michigan governor releases more Flint emails, documents

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Posted: Mar 10, 2016 11:35 PM
Michigan governor releases more Flint emails, documents

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday released another 4,400 pages of his executive office's emails and documents related to the lead-contaminated water in Flint. The disclosure is the third voluntary release of such records, which have revealed his administration's inner dialogue before the crisis and as it grew after the financially struggling city left Detroit's water system and started using the Flint River to save money.

The newly released documents include duplications from previous releases, but also new ones from Snyder himself. Here are details on some of those emails:

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'POTENTIAL DISASTERS'

A staffer in Snyder's Office of Urban Initiatives warned before Flint switched water sources that things were moving too quickly and trouble might lie ahead.

The city's water treatment plant needed to be prepared, and the deadline for submitting bids to do the work was "putting a strain on the willingness of qualified vendors to participate," Brian Larkin wrote in a March 14, 2014, memo.

"The expedited timeframe is less than ideal and could lead to some big potential disasters down the road," he added.

Larkin dealt with a number of cities, including Flint, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said. He is no longer with the governor's office.

He sent the memo to several colleagues. It eventually was added to a calendar appointment notice that was emailed to top Snyder aides, including former chief of staff Dennis Muchmore, former spokeswoman Sara Wurfel and advisers Dick Posthumus and Bill Rustem.

Adler said Larkin's warning referred to potential problems with treatment plant operations, not the failure to add anti-corrosive treatments that enabled lead to pollute Flint's water supply.

It wasn't the only time insiders raised concerns about the timing of Flint's switchover in April 2014. Mike Glasgow, a former supervisor at the plant and presently the city utilities administrator, complained shortly beforehand in an email to a state official that he needed more time to train staffers.

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WORKING VACATION

In an email sent to Snyder while the governor was on vacation in April 2013, his chief of staff said he wanted to make sure Snyder knew that two of his top administrators — Treasurer Andy Dillon and Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant — agreed with a request by "Flint people" to make the switch to a new water authority, a move that ultimately led Flint to get water temporarily from the Flint River a year later.

"I have no way of determining whether this is the right action except to depend on the two departments charged with this responsibility, so I recommend that we support their determination and let the chips fall where they may," Muchmore wrote on April 4. "This will happen early next week, so we need to have you made aware and develop a message of support if that is what you want to do."

Snyder responded, saying he thought everyone agreed that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department would be notified it was losing a key customer and given 10 days to make a counter offer. Muchmore wrote back that evening, saying the department had been notified. "Sorry for the confusion but they haven't followed up with Flint and I thought you should know we were moving to the next step at the end of the ten days. I was indicating that we were expecting to move forward in case you had further reservations and wanted us to delay further."

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EYE TOWARD RE-ELECTION

In his initial April 4 email, Muchmore alluded to Snyder's re-election bid 19 months later. He said the administration needed to make sure that the decision to remove Flint from Detroit's water system had been relayed to Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager appointed by the state to take over Detroit's finances.

"We'll need to make sure that Orr knows about this as soon as possible so he can take it into his calculations. It would certainly diminish the DWSD base, and probably spin off a series of political questions for others still involved in the Detroit system. But, I don't see how you can support Detroit to the detriment of the rest of the state. You've done a lot for the city, but you also need to have a strong support for outstate for 2014."

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CHANGE IN POSTURE

On Oct. 15, after the disaster broke open, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley sent an "FYI" email from his private account to Snyder's private political account. Calley forwarded an email he had written to Jarrod Agen — Snyder's current chief of staff who at the time was communications director — suggesting a change in posture in media stories related to Flint and the Education Achievement Authority, a state entity overseeing some Detroit schools.

"There will be intense scrutiny and investigations on every aspect of the Flint water issue. I'd rather have the governor be the one pounding his fist on the table demanding answers, rather than Progress Michigan," a liberal group often critical of the Snyder administration. "In fact, perhaps we should ask someone to open an investigation, or maybe an internal investigation. Just something to show that we are doing more than fixing the problem, we are getting all the answers to ensure it never happens again." Snyder ended up naming a task force to investigate on Oct. 21.

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COMPUTER PROBLEMS

Even Snyder, a self-proclaimed "nerd" and former computer company executive, has computer problems. On Sept. 27, Muchmore forwarded him an email in which a top Treasury Department official summarized a meeting with Flint officials about their request for $30 million in state aid to upgrade the city's water system. "I couldn't open the attachments," Snyder responded. "They showed up in some strange form."

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PAST DISCLOSURES

The disclosure follows two earlier releases: one in January that included about 270 pages of the Republican governor's own emails, and one in February with roughly 16,700 pages of his staff's emails and documents. Snyder has repeatedly apologized for the crisis and voluntarily made materials public despite his office being exempt from public-records requests. The governor has said he hopes that re-lining Flint's pipes with a protective coating will help while lead service lines running to homes and businesses ultimately are replaced.

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Associated Press writers Corey Williams and Roger Schneider in Detroit contributed to this report.

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This story has been updated to correct that the February disclosure contained roughly 16,700 pages of emails and documents.