DETROIT — A civil war of sorts is developing in the Michigan attorney general’s office over 23 boxes of records found in a state basement and what role — if any — they have in the Flint water criminal investigation.
Prosecutors led by Fadwa Hammoud, a senior official in the office, want a six-month delay in the involuntary manslaughter case of former state health director Nick Lyon in order to conduct a review of the boxes.
But another lawyer in the office took an extraordinary step Wednesday, telling a judge there’s “no indication” that the boxes were connected to Lyon and that prosecutors last week had made a series of statements in a court filing that were “not true.” A hearing is planned for Friday.
Assistant Attorney General Christina Grossi said she was standing up for lawyers on the civil side of the office who dealt with an “avalanche of demands for documents” created by state agencies and possibly related to the Flint water scandal. Those demands were made by Congress, the U.S. Justice Department, lawyers in civil lawsuits and prosecutors who have charged 15 people with crimes related to disastrous decisions to use the Flint River in 2014-15.
There was “absolutely no attempt to hide or withhold responsive information. … Allegations of misconduct against assistant attorney generals are unsupported,” Grossi said in a court filing.
She said records in a state basement cited by Hammoud’s team belonged to water regulators at the Department of Environmental Quality, known as DEQ.
“They mainly contained the typical types of documents one would expect to have accumulated in a water treatment professional’s office over time: training manuals/CD’s, personnel files, DEQ policies, and binders containing non-responsive meeting agendas/notes,” Grossi said.
“And while a small number of documents were responsive, they appeared to be copies of documents that had already been produced” to special prosecutor Todd Flood, she said.
Flood was recently fired by Hammoud, who said evidence “was not fully and properly pursued” by him. But Grossi offered a more favorable opinion.
“Mr. Flood participated in the formation of the very procedures the agencies used to winnow down the millions of documents and identify those that are responsive to the subpoenas,” she said.
There was no immediate comment from Hammoud.
Lyon, the former health chief, is accused of failing to timely warn the public about a Legionnaires’ outbreak when Flint was distributing water that wasn’t properly treated. The water system was contaminated with bacteria and lead, which had leached from old pipes.
Lyon’s attorney, Chip Chamberlain, is opposed to a six-month timeout in the case. After reading Grossi’s court filing, he said allegations by prosecutors about overlooked evidence were “reckless.”
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