Eastern Michigan University regent resigns after being charged in Flint water investigation

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Eastern Michigan University Regent Rich Baird announced Friday he resigned his position on the college's Board of Regents effective immediately.

Rich Baird, former top aide to ex-Gov. Rick Snyder, appears in court, Thursday, January 14, 2021.

Baird's resignation comes one day after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office charged him, former Gov. Rick Snyder and seven others as part of the Flint water investigation.

In a letter to EMU Board Chairperson Eunice Jeffries, Baird wrote the charges against him are "specious and totally without merit."

"This is a very difficult decision for me," Baird wrote, "but one that I believe is in the best interests of the University, which I have loved and supported long before becoming a Regent."

Baird, a Chicago resident, was one of Snyder's closest advisers and led Flint's recovery effort. He was charged with perjury during an investigative subpoena investigation, misconduct in office, obstruction of justice and extortion in relation to the Flint water case. 

"The motivation for these accusations is unknown to me but I can assure you that my conduct at all times in helping the people of Flint in the wake of the water crisis was legal, compassionate, ethical, and sincere," Baird wrote.

"As a former resident of Flint," Baird continued, "I asked Governor Snyder to assign me to lead a multi department outreach effort called Mission Flint which monitored and remedied the water, replaced lead service lines for residents, created nutrition, medical, education and economic development support as well as a host of other programs to address the needs of those affected in a tragic situation which I truly wish had never happened to them."

The extortion charge against him stems from a threat to "a state-appointed research team during their investigation into the source of the Legionnaire's disease outbreak in Genesee Count," said Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud.

Baird faces up to 15 years on the perjury charge, while the misconduct charge has a penalty of up to five years in prison or $10,000 fine. The obstruction charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and or a $10,000 fine, and the extortion charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years and or a $10,000.

Baird’s bond was set at $15,000 10% bond on the perjury count, $75,000 personal recognizance on the misconduct charge, $75,000 personal recognizance on the obstruction charge and $50,000 cash surety on the extortioncharge.

Snyder appointed Baird to his position in November 2018 to replace Mike Morris, whose term expired Dec. 31, 2018. Baird's term expires Dec. 31, 2026. 

He acknowledged in his letter that resolving the legal proceedings would take a long time.

"I will be exonerated," Baird wrote. "But until that time comes, I will not allow my affiliation with EMU to become a distraction from the great work done by the Board, the Administration, the Faculty and most importantly, our students."

"EMU is an incredible institution and I have been honored to serve it in a variety of ways ...," he wrote.