Michigan Governor Rick Snyder could have declared a state of emergency in Flint over its water contamination crisis months earlier than he did, according to new emails released Sunday that contradict the governor's defense of his delayed actions.
Snyder, who declared a state of emergency in Flint and Genesee County on January 5—months after acknowledging there was lead in the region's public water supply—has repeatedly said he could not take action until local officials made a request, which Genesee County did on January 4.
However, a November 13 email sent to Snyder's office from Michigan State Police (MSP) Captain Chris Kelenske, who also serves as the deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security, reads, "As you know, the Governor can declare at any time, for any reason."
"The state will formally own the event if we put a Governor's Declaration in place," Kelenske wrote to Snyder's deputy legal counsel, Paul Smith. "This could be viewed as the state having owned up to how the water issue was caused."
Kelenske also noted in the email that Snyder's office had made no formal request for assistance. "A state declaration sets a precedent for issuing a state declaration for an infrastructure maintenance event," Kelenske wrote. "What if lead is found in other areas of the state's drinking water due to infrastructure issues? This action opens the door to any other jurisdiction with water quality issues."
State Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) told the Detroit Free Press that the email is "further confirmation that there was much more concern about protecting the reputation of governor and the state than there was protecting the citizens of Flint."
"It's infuriating," Ananich said.
Progress Michigan, a grassroots democracy group, wrote in a blog post on Monday, "This lie goes to the heart of Snyder’s painfully slow and inadequate response to the Flint Water Crisis."
"Choosing to not declare a state of emergency in Flint further delayed critical resources to people who continue to struggle to get basic water needs met," the group stated. "Snyder needs to resign immediately. Revelation after revelation shows us just how badly he and his entire administration bungled the response to this crisis, which, he too, is responsible for creating."