Two victim advocates joining the Flint water crisis prosecution team were announced by Attorney General Dana Nessel and Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud on Thursday during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the first ever Flint branch office of the Department of Attorney General.
Joyce Wilson and Micho Assi will serve on the criminal investigation being led by Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Nessel is handling civil litigation related to the water crisis.
“Their role is exactly what it sounds like: it’s to be rooted in this community as advocates for your needs and to be a bridge to your government,” Hammoud said.
Hammoud said it was Worthy’s idea to have Wilson and Assi be “on the ground in the community to advocate, to listen and to provide resources and support for those who continue to bear the brunt of this crisis.”
Hammoud said that the residents of Flint and the Department of Attorney General need each other to achieve justice after the Flint water crisis.
“You have been our most important asset, ally and, truly, the inspiration behind what we do. A critical part of our work at the attorney general’s office is being responsive and accessible to you, and that’s what this office is all about,” Hammoud said. “We really need each other. We need you to be engaged because we can’t pursue justice without the expertise of your lived experiences.”
Mayor Sheldon Neeley, who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, said that Nessel opening the first Department of Attorney General office in Flint is a sign of a strong commitment to delivering justice.
“She made very many commitments – a lot of commitments – over the campaign trail and she also said one of those commitments was going to be to this community about delivering justice and about having an office here for residents to be better served,” Neeley said.
Nessel said that she wanted to open an office in Flint to ensure everybody in Flint could access to the Department of Attorney General.
“I was here a lot during the course of the campaign and I talked a lot about the fact that I quite honestly did not feel as though this proud city had been treated properly by its state government for a long time, and had been ignored, and had not received the services from the state that it should have,” Nessel said.
“I wanted to make sure that everyone here had access to the Department of Attorney General. So, I said, you’re not going to have to go to Lansing to see somebody at the Department of Attorney General – somebody at the Department of Attorney General is going to come to you here in Flint.”
Nessel, Hammoud and Neeley cut the ribbon on the new office together.
“I’ve never done this before,” Nessel joked. “I’m supposed to run with these, right?”
Hammoud emphasized that the new office was meant not just as work space for the department’s staff, but for residents to utilize.
“This is the people’s office, so know that you are not just welcome here you are needed and you are wanted here,” Hammoud said.
The state announced in June that they were dropping all pending criminal cases related to the water crisis to launch an expanded investigation.
Additional charges have not been filed since.
Following the announcement, Hammoud and Worthy visited Flint for a town hall, where they explained to skeptical residents their decision to restart the investigation.
Hammoud declined to provide reporters at the ribbon cutting a timeline for when new charges might be filed.