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Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling on Friday deflected criticism of his handling of the growing water crisis, pointing blame squarely at the state’s stewardship of the city while it was under an emergency financial manager.

“...Let’s be clear, there was a bait and switch with all of us here in Flint,” Walling told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “We had a state-appointed emergency manager by Gov. (Rick) Snyder come in and take control of the city in December 2011.

“And after City Council and I expressed support for a new water supply from Lake Huron, the emergency manager went behind closed doors with the Department of Environmental Quality and decided to use the Flint River as an interim source, made the budget changes and put that in place.”

Walling’s term as mayor coincided with the period Flint was under the control of an emergency manager appointed by Snyder. In April 2014, the city began drawing its water from the Flint River as a cost-saving measure, and immediately began to receive complaints from the public.

The issues began with concerns over the water’s taste, smell and coloring. Last year, they escalated into concerns about high levels of lead in the water as well as in blood samples taken from Flint children.

Walling served six years as the city's mayor, but his run ended in November when he was defeated in the election by Karen Weaver. Much of Weaver's campaign focused on the decisions made by government that led to Flint's crisis.

City, state and federal officials have since been under increasing scrutiny for how the water came to be contaminated, and why it wasn’t caught and addressed sooner. And at each level, there has been finger-pointing.

During his appearance on Cuomo’s New Day program on CNN, Walling defended decisions made by his administration as city water issues grew from a nuisance into a public health crisis. He deflected questions about why the city didn’t take a harder look at its water when, in the fall of 2014, a local General Motors plant opted to stop using Flint’s water due to concerns about corrosivity.

“I think all of this shows that from the beginning there were major problems,” he said. “It wasn’t regulated right, and this community was betrayed. I was given bad information, and I gave bad information to the community.”

JLynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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