Ex-mayor: Wells consulted on Flint water issues
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the charges against former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose.
Flint -- The city’s former mayor said Wednesday that State Medical Executive Eden Wells became involved in Flint’s water issues as early as March 2015 -- about three months before the death of a Flint area man she is accused of helping to kill.
This was the first day Wells had a simultaneous court hearing as her boss, Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office.
Special Prosecutor Todd Flood has accused Lyon and Wells with contributing to the death of John Snyder, who died as a result of Legionnaires’ disease in June 2015, by failing to declare a public health emergency over the outbreak of the form of pneumonia. Lyon’s case featured Wednesday testimony from Mary Anne Tribble, the daughter of Snyder. His case continues on Friday.
Flood called on Walling in an attempt to further tie Wells to John Snyder’s death.
In October 2014, then- Department of Public Works Director Howard Croft said the McLaren Medical Center “had detected Legionella in its water system,” the former mayor said. Croft has also bee charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Flint water investigation by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Office.
Walling said the Legionnaires’ outbreak “was not” public at that time nor was he a part of the discussion to try to make it so. Twelve Flint area people died in 2014-15 from Legionnaires’.
Walling confirmed that Wells attended a meeting held in late March 2015 before she became state medical executive but was a part-time associate executive in assisting with public health issues. She was there because he and others wanted to get the advice of multiple experts after the disinfectant level violations occurred, the former mayor said.
“I’m fairly certain, that’s my recollection,” Walling said of seeing Wells at the March 2015 meeting. “There were a lot of meetings at different times.”
“I remember being happy or pleased that there was additional state help at the table,” he added.
Walling recalled meeting Michigan’s top doctor at an advisory meeting in Flint in 2014.
The former mayor also talked about the early history of the Flint water switch, when residents complained that their water changed color and had a strange odor after a state-appointed emergency manager switched to the Flint River from the Detroit area water system in April 2014..
“There were complaints throughout 2014 following the warmer weather and the spring kicking in and the switch to the Flint River happened at the same time,” Walling said. “There were ongoing complaints about the water color, odor, people having to let their tap run because it was discolored. said.
Residents were bewildered to get a Safe Drinking Water violation notice because the amount of trihalomethanes or a group of chemicals caused by water disinfectants spiked above federal standards, he said.
“And it was one of the times that I felt like I had to reach out directly to Dennis Muchmore,” Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, Walling said. “I also put together my own water quality plan that addressed what I understood could be done with the treatment, with more testing, with more transparency.”
Walling also spoke about working with former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose. Earley is charged with involuntary manslaughter, among other charges, while Ambrose is accused of committing false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.
Ambrose was the city’s finance director when the water source was switched to the Flint River from the Detroit area water system in the spring of 2014.