Nothing Michigan does will fully repair damage from the Flint water crisis, Attorney General Dana Nessel says.
"No matter how much money, no matter how lengthy the prison sentences are of anyone who is charged, and if they’re convicted, they won't be made whole," she said in a taped interview Sunday night on MSNBC that also featured Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. "But all we can do is the best we can to hold people acountable and to make the promise that while the three of us are in charge of the executive offices nothing like this will ever happen again."
Nessel was responding to community activitists who believe the state should have filed tougher criminal charges against nine former state officials in the water scandal, including ex-Gov. Rick Snyder, who faces two misdemeanor counts of wilfull neglect of duty. The charges against Snyder, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, aren't likely to result in jail time if convicted.
Additionally, the state recently announced a $641-million settlement in a lawsuit on behalf of Flint residents were harmed by lead-tainted water. Scores of children have suffered illnesses as a result of the tainted water, linked to dozens of cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, including 12 deaths.
Because Nessel was handling the civil case, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy were assigned as special prosecutors to head up the criminal probe. They lodged 42 charges against nine people last Thursday, including former state health directror Nick Lyon -- accused of nine counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Nessel sees the criminal charges as appropriate. "Generally speaking, you know, criminal charges cannot be based on community outrage," she said. "It has to be based on the facts, the law and the evidence. And that is really it."
"I expect that the career prosecutors who handled these cases took into account in the 22 million documents that they they looked at, the hundreds of devices, the hundreds of hundreds of witnesses that they interviewed. I’m sure they explored every potential avenue and that the charges they arrived on were based on facts, law and evidence."
As for the lawsuit, she said: "The governor and I worked very very hard to try to implement as quickly as we could, understanding that the people of the city of Flint deserived indemnification to whatever extent we could provide that. This is the largest settlement in the history of the state of Michigan. And we expect that the settlement, which is now at $641 million, will only grow."
Flint activist Claudia Perkins-Milton is quoted as descroibing the charges against Snyder as "a slap in all of our faces."