Nessel asks Wayne Co. prosecutor to take over Flint water case

By: - January 4, 2019 9:42 pm

Flint water plant | Nick Manes

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday plans to replace the current prosecutor in charge of ongoing criminal lawsuits filed against high level state officials in the office’s Flint water crisis case.

Nessel’s office said she will replace Flint Special Prosecutor Todd Flood with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who was a member of Nessel’s transition team before she was sworn into office as Michigan’s new attorney general on Jan. 1.

Kym Worthy

Nessel has “requested that [Worthy’s] office take over the prosecution of the criminal cases on behalf of the attorney general’s office,” Nessel’s office said in a press release.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement that her office will review the request.

“A decision will be made at a later time addressing what entity will continue these prosecutions,” she said, adding that she “will not be making any public statements and will provide the attorney general with a full report when this assessment is completed. It has important to remember that there is a lot of material to review as these investigations are almost three years old.”

GOP former Attorney General Bill Schuette appointed Flood, a private attorney, to handle criminal proceedings related to the Flint water crisis. Nessel, a Democrat, said she wants to replace Flood “due to conflicts created by the Department of Attorney General defending the state in civil cases brought by Flint residents.”

If Worthy agrees, she will be the new lead prosecutor in charge of the case, according to Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokeswoman for Nessel.

“I have total confidence in Prosecutor Worthy and her office and there is no one whose opinion I value more when it comes to the complexity and importance of these cases,” Nessel said in a statement. “We are hoping to have a response from Prosecutor Worthy regarding acceptance of these cases soon.”

Dana Nessel

Flood brought criminal charges against 15 current and former state and Flint employees. The charges ranged from misdemeanors to 15-year felonies for involuntary manslaughter. So far, six defendants have pleaded “no contest” to misdemeanors.

Charged in the criminal case were high-level state employees such as Michigan’s former Health and Human Services Department Director Nick Lyon and the state’s former chief medical executive, Eden Wells. Wells is also currently leading Michigan’s PFAS response team. In 2018, she received a distinguished service award despite pending criminal charges.

Flood charged Lyon and Wells with involuntary manslaughter in connection with a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people in 2014 and 2015 and sickened others.

During her 2018 campaign for attorney general, Nessel called the Flint cases “politically charged show trials.”

State Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint) praised Nessel today.

“The people of Flint undoubtedly suffered enough at the hands of the previous administration; it is refreshing to have an attorney general take such serious and immediate action to ensure the Flint community receives the support and resources they deserve,” he said. “As we enter the fifth year since this crisis began, I am grateful for Attorney General Nessel’s swift and decisive action, and look forward to supporting her in any way I can to help bring long-overdue justice to the Flint community.”

On Wednesday, she issued an executive directive mandating that department-level state employees “who become aware of an imminent threat to public health, safety or welfare must immediately report it to their department director or agency head.”

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.