Nessel: Flint criminal investigation 'wrapping up' soon

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — The state of Michigan expects to complete its criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis over the next couple of months, Attorney General Dana Nessel said Tuesday. 

Nessel, who is not involved with the criminal case, said Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud has communicated progress in the case. 

"She indicates to me that they are wrapping up the investigation and I believe there will be some announcement on the status of the case early next year," Nessel told reporters Tuesday. She said she did not know whether criminal charges would be announced.

"I have not put any pressure on this team to do anything but whatever they felt was the right thing for them to do," Nessel said.

Some of the Flint investigative team members contracted COVID-19 in 2020, prolonging the investigation, Nessel said. 

Amid speculation that a grand jury might be convened to hear evidence in the Flint criminal cases, Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder's former spokesman Dave Murray spent two and a half hours inside the Genesee County Courthouse in October. 

Murray and attorney Douglas Van Essen would not say why they were at the courthouse when asked by The Detroit News. 

While under state-imposed emergency management, Flint switched its water source in 2014 to the Flint River and treated the water without implementing proper corrosion controls. Lead leached out of the pipes and contaminated drinking water. 

Some authorities also tied Legionnaire's disease outbreaks that killed 12 people in 2014 and 2015 to the improper water treatments.

Nessel has been working on the civil side of the Flint case, settling with plaintiffs earlier this year for a settlement that totals $641 million. 

Civil cases still are outstanding against the Environmental Protection Agency and the engineering firms with which Flint consulted on the water switch. 

Nessel said she expected the EPA to also settle its case soon with President-elect Joe Biden taking office Jan. 20. 

"I am told that that is very much on the agenda of the Biden administration," she said.

Michigan officials in mid-April assured parties that criminal charges still were possible in the case, even as the state passed the six-year statute of limitations on most charges associated with the April 2014 water switch to the Flint River. 

In June 2019, Hammoud dropped all pending criminal cases authorized under Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette and relaunched the investigation.

Charges were dropped against eight individuals, including former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and former Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells, who both served under Snyder.