DETROIT — A special prosecutor who spent three years leading a criminal investigation of the Flint water scandal has been fired, officials announced Monday, apparently part of the fallout from the recent discovery of 23 boxes of records in the basement of a state building.
Todd Flood’s contract was terminated on April 16. The Michigan attorney general’s office told a judge about the records on Friday as it seeks a six-month freeze in the case against Michigan’s former health director, Nick Lyon, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
“It recently became clear that discovery was not fully and properly pursued from the onset of this investigation,” Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud said in a written statement. “The decision to terminate Mr. Flood’s contract reflects our ongoing commitment to execute the highest standards in the prosecution of the Flint water crisis. Our standards demand a full accounting of all evidence that may inform the People’s investigation.”
Flood, who was hired in 2016 by then-Attorney General Bill Schuette, declined to comment on the criticism when reached by phone but released a statement defending his work.
“This complex case of official wrongdoing and betrayal of public trust has been prosecuted with the utmost attention to the professional standards that justice demands,” he said. “I walk away knowing that I gave everything I had to give to this case. The people of Flint deserved nothing less.”
Fifteen people have been charged in how Flint’s water became contaminated with lead as well as a related outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15. No one has been convicted of a felony. Seven people, including key environmental regulators, have pleaded no contest to misdemeanours, and their records will be wiped clean.
In a court filing last week, the attorney general’s office said lawyers in the office who have been defending state officials in civil lawsuits related to Flint water knew about the 23 boxes of documents and computer hard drives.
They indicated that the records were duplicates of what already had been given to Flood’s team, but investigators found that wasn’t the case in some instances, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Ping wrote.
A Flint-area judge is expected to soon decide whether to affirm or throw out a decision to send Lyon to trial for the deaths of two people who had Legionnaires’. But Hammoud’s team now wants a six-month timeout while the contents of the 23 boxes are reviewed. Lyon’s defence lawyers oppose the stay.
Neil Rockind, a lawyer who isn’t involved in the case, said the boxes could help prosecutors or the defence.
“Prosecutors have an obligation to turn over all discovery — witness statements, investigative reports, lab tests — pursuant to Michigan court rules,” Rockind explained. “When a prosecutor discovers evidence that hasn’t been turned over, the proceedings really should halt.”
Dana Nessel was elected attorney general in November. She said she would get rid of Flood if elected but instead kept him and put Hammoud in charge of the Flint water investigation. The investigation had cost $8.1 million through February, spokesman Dan Olsen said.
“He definitely has institutional knowledge. … There have been people that have worked diligently on the case — Todd Flood and others,” Nessel said in February.
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story.
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