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DEQ defense lawyers grill ex-Flint plant operator

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Flint — Defense attorneys on Monday challenged the truthfulness of the special prosecution’s lead witness against Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees charged with crimes related to the Flint water crisis.

Attorneys for DEQ employees Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby heavily questioned Michael Glasgow, the former water utilities administrator for Flint. They constantly referred to a interview Glasgow had with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March 2016 about the opening of the Flint Water Treatment plant in 2014 prior to the controversial switch to the corrosive Flint River.

Busch attorney Deday LaRene asked Glasgow if he said no one “pressured you to put that Flint Water Treatment plant online.”

“I did make that statement,” said Glasgow, who reached a plea deal with Special Prosecutor Todd Flood in exchange for his testimony, but indicated he was foggy about his exact conversation with the feds.

The comment came after LaRene pointed out that Glasgow was being pressured by his superiors in Flint to jump-start the water treatment plant even though Glasgow said it wasn’t ready to go.

“The whole idea of putting the plant into service was unusual in my eyes anyway,” Glasgow said.

This was the first day of cross examination of Glasgow in 67th District Court before Judge Jennifer Manley in the preliminary exam hearing for water regulators Busch, Prysby, Patrick Cook as well as Liane Shekter Smith, the fired head of the DEQ division responsible for overseeing Flint’s water source switch.

Shekter Smith and Busch each had a charge of involuntary manslaughter added in June 2017. Attorney General Bill Schuette accused them and four others of failing to alert the public about a 2014-2015 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area that killed 12 people and sickened another 79 individuals.

Glasgow admitted he lied on monthly water sampling documents as a “cry for help” to the DEQ. Prysby attorney Frank Reynolds pressed that point on his cross examination.

“So you lied to” the DEQ? Reynolds asked.

“No, it was misleading information on the report,” Glasgow countered.

When Reynolds continued to press, Glasgow said, “misleading information and a lie...” and shrugged his shoulders. He said he didn’t remember Flood using the word “lie” during his prior testimony.

In February, Glasgow said the water treatment plant was not ready when it opened in April 2014, and he tried to warn two DEQ employees after he was rebuffed by city officials.

He also testified that he reached out to Prysby, Busch and Rosenthal via email with concerns that no one from the state who was running Flint was listening to his concerns.

LaRene noted that Glasgow told the FBI that his employees “were excited about the possibility of having a fully operational water plant that they would be operating.” He couldn’t recall if he made the statement.

Reynolds also peppered Glasgow with questions about his plea deal with Flood, saying at one point, “You’re just going to skate out of here” without a criminal charge or prison time.

Glasgow pleaded guilty in May to a reduced charge of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor. Sentencing for Glasgow was set aside as long as he cooperates with Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

“I did not want the water plant to run at all,” Glasgow said to Reynolds.

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