Gov. Snyder reflects on legacy, Flint water crisis

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Reflecting on his eight years in office Tuesday, outgoing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said that he regrets aspects of how the Flint water crisis was handled but described his administration’s overall response as “strong.”

“I think we had issues in the early days. I wish we would have responded sooner,” Snyder said. “But the response has been very strong. We had a 75-point plan – everything from education to human services to economic development. We’re at 73 of the 75 points largely being completed or ongoing.”

Snyder said in an interview with The Detroit News’ editorial board last week that he would never be at peace with Flint “because it was a terrible thing to happen.”

“We had failures at all levels of government, but some of the people involved – particularly the so-called experts in water – made some bad calls in my view, and they worked for me,” Snyder said. “I did what I always think you should do and take responsibility for that.”

One of Snyder’s cabinet members, Eden Wells, was ordered this week to face trial for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Flint water crisis.

Less than a week before the decision, Wells became an advisory physician for the Department of Health and Human Services, Crain’s Detroit Business reports.

While her current position as the state’s chief medical executive is appointed, the advisory physician role makes Wells a classified employee of the state – making it more difficult for Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer to potentially fire Wells.

Wells will continue to serve in Snyder’s cabinet through the end of the year.

But Snyder said that he was unaware Wells had accepted a new position in DHHS.

“I wasn’t even aware of that in terms of her being in that position,” Snyder said. “But I supported Dr. Wells. Dr. Wells has done a lot of great work.”

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight committee, said last month that he intends to investigate the Flint water crisis again, The Detroit News reports.

As part of that investigation, the Maryland Democrat, who will have subpoena power, said he will likely call Snyder back to testify.

Snyder testified to the committee in March 2016, but testimony from one of Snyder’s top aides conflicts with the governor’s timeline of when he found out about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Flint area.

“There are still questions as to whether the governor was completely honest with us when he appeared before our committee,” Cummings said. “I would love to at some point — soon — see him come back to address the committee’s concerns.”

Snyder said that he would testify if subpoenaed but that he didn’t see the purpose in having him appear again.

“If you get a subpoena you have a subpoena,” Snyder said. “I’m not sure I understand what his objective is, but I’ll have to wait and see if he subpoenas me or not.”

Michigan Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel’s transition said in a statement that she will not comment on any open investigations or cases until she takes office in January but added that “she is deeply concerned about the people of Flint and that case is very high on the agenda.”

Legislation passed by the Michigan House of Representatives last week would allow either chamber of the Legislature to intervene in court cases when they deem it necessary “to protect any right or interest of this state, or of that body.”

The bill, seen by many as an attempt to limit Nessel’s power before she takes office, was amended in a Senate committee to limit the Legislature’s involvement to cases challenging the constitutionality of a state statute or an action of the Legislature.

Another section added to the bill in the Senate notes that the legislation “does not limit any right or duty of the attorney general provided by law.”

While Snyder remained mum on whether he would sign or veto the bill if it reaches his desk, he noted that he didn’t understand the strategies being used by some opposed to that and other controversial lame-duck bills.

“I appreciate there’s concern about the Republican side promoting these bills and that’s part of the dialogue,” Snyder said. “I think there’s a civility question across the board in some ways, because one of the ways people are trying to convince me why I should veto bills or be against it is to come yell at me. I’m not sure I follow the logic of, if you want me to join them in saying I don’t like something, the best way to do that is to call me names and do other things like that.”

Ultimately, Snyder said he will go “100 miles per hour” through the end of his term.

“As I’ve always told people, on that last day I may not be able to help 2018 but I may be able to help somebody’s life in 2020 or 2022, and that’s something special.”

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