Our Editorial: Snyder must produce all emails immediately

The Detroit News

This week’s alarming revelation that Gov. Rick Snyder’s staff knew about the spike in Legionnaires’ disease in Flint well before he announced it publicly calls into question the administration’s commitment to full transparency regarding this crisis.

Emails uncovered last week indicate the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality warned a top Snyder aide about the rise in Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County and the possible link to Flint water 10 months before it was made public. The emails originated last March from MEDQ spokesman Brad Wurfel, who resigned along with department director Dan Wyant when the Flint scandal broke.

They were sent to Harvey Hollins, Snyder’s point man in Flint at the time. But it wasn’t until Jan. 13 that Snyder publicly announced the spike, saying he had just learned of it. A few days later, in his State of the State address, he promised Michigan a full and honest accounting of what happened in Flint.

Clearly, there are things the governor isn’t telling Michigan residents.

The people of Flint deserve better than to learn new details of the crisis day after day as they are uncovered by third-party sources. These dribs and drabs are damaging Snyder’s credibility and contributing to the destruction of the people’s trust in their government.

The surprises must stop now.

Snyder has released his own emails from 2014 and 2015. But there are more he has not made public — including the ones from Wurfel to Hollins.

He still refuses to release his emails from 2013, and his staff’s communications for the entire period. He must put them on the table now, along with all other documents related to Flint.

The governor is obviously trying to spare his staff, and perhaps himself, from scrutiny. But his staff works for the the public, and the public owns that information.

A governor’s spokesman says the Legionnaires’ warning never made it to Snyder. That’s incredible. But if true, those who failed to pass it on should be held responsible. There’s no excuse for keeping such a critical detail from the governor — or the people at risk. Or in keeping staffers who don’t recognize the importance of forthright communication.

Snyder should have been clearer on Jan. 13 that while he may have just found out about the Legionnaires’ spike, his administration knew about it for much longer. Not doing so was an obfuscation.

Snyder would be better off releasing all Flint-related documents himself, and immediately. If he doesn’t, it’s inevitable state and federal investigations now underway will forcibly bring them to light.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has launched an independent investigation looking back to 2006. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade has a parallel probe underway. Schuette suggested last week the emails will be subpoenaed.

The lead poisoning alone was terrible. The Legionnaires’ spike is worse — at least nine people died.

And if Snyder or his staff is caught in a cover-up, it will turn this crisis into an unmitigated disaster for Michigan. The people of Flint can’t begin to recover from this tragedy with so many questions still unanswered.

Snyder owes them, and all of Michigan, a complete and unfiltered accounting. Today.