LABOR VOICES

Time to recall Attorney General Bill Schuette

James Hoffa

A tragedy of epic proportions has taken place in Flint over the past two years. The health of tens of thousands of city residents, especially children and seniors, continues to be threatened by lead leaking into the water. And even though some remedies are being implemented, no one has stepped up to accept responsibility.

That’s why members of the public were so outraged when Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appointed a financial supporter of his to head up a probe of the Flint water crisis earlier this year. And it’s why some have now initiated a recall petition of Schuette for his handling of the investigation as state elected leaders continue to accept accountability for the fiasco.

Schuette, considered a leading contender for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2018, has looked outside of Lansing for answers. Last month, he filed suit against two engineering firms for their role in allowing the water crisis to occur. But that move does little to get to bottom of what those in state government knew and when.

As it stands, the public should have little confidence in finding out the answer to that question. Will political crony Todd Flood, the “special counsel” appointed to investigate what went on in Flint, really ever turn on Schuette or Gov. Rick Snyder if he were to determine there was wrongdoing? One could be forgiven if they doubt it.

What we have here is real people suffering a real injustice. This isn’t political posturing. Lives have been changed for the worse because elected officials turned their backs on concerns raised by Flint residents. It is possible some even died because of it. Children’s futures have been jeopardized because of exposure to lead. It’s nothing short of an outrage.

At this point, however, it’s a mystery if anyone will ever be held responsible. That’s why recalling Schuette is a legitimate response. He is supposed to be the law in Michigan. And when there is a conflict of interest in a case, an independent authority must be brought in to get answers. By appointing Flood, he failed to meet that standard.

The Teamsters, other unions and outside groups have stepped in to assist city residents. Michigan Teamsters have been front and center, but assistance with trucking in fresh drinking water has come from members as far away as Atlanta, Boston, and Kansas City. They can only do so much, however.

Elected officials in Michigan need to ask themselves what they would do if their own families faced such a health crisis. Certainly they would not be satisfied with a questionable probe into the issue conducted by an ally of possible leader responsible for the incident.

Government caused this problem, and it is now its job to clean it up. That means getting to the bottom of who caused it and who ignored problems when they arose. Those at fault must be brought to justice. Nothing else will suffice.

Schuette’s decision jeopardizes that outcome. It also raises serious questions about his judgment to serve not only as attorney general, but governor should he seek the state’s highest office. That’s why his recall is necessary.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.