A prime suspect in the deadly Flint Water Crisis was being rewarded with a lofty position in academia as victims of the environmental disaster were still searching for closure. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was beginning his new role as a prestigious Harvard University fellow on Monday, just days after prosecutors explained why they had to drop criminal charges in the ongoing investigation into the Flint Water Crisis.
Snyder was named a “senior research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government,” according to a press release. Harvard specifically mentioned what it called Snyder’s “significant expertise in management, public policy, and promoting civility.”
But according to the official report surrounding the Flint Water Crisis — an environmental disaster that killed at least 12 people in the predominately Black city of Flint — that aforementioned “expertise in management, public policy, and promoting civility” was missing when he failed to respond in a timely manner to affected residents’ complaints.
“The governor had adequate legal authority to intervene by demanding more information from agency directors, reorganizing agencies to assure availability of appropriate expertise where needed, ordering state agencies to respond, or ultimately firing ineffective agency heads,” according to a 2018 report from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “But he abjured, either due to ignorance or willful neglect of duty.”
The report definitively stated that Snyder “bears significant legal responsibility.”
Two years after the water crisis first hit, Snyder refused to replace the corroded lead pipes that helped causes the disaster. Snyder left office late last year because his two terms were up.
Some Twitter users found irony in the fact that Harvard had recently rescinded admission to an incoming student who had used racial slurs on social media years ago but found no issue with extending an offer to Snyder.
Flint prosecutors executed search warrants on Snyder by seizing his cellphone last month in what the New York Times said “signaled that prosecutors examining the Flint water crisis in recent months have been scrutinizing” him. But the prosecutors recently dropped all criminal charges against eight former state government officials because of malfeasance from the first round of investigations into what the Associated Press described as “a man-made health emergency after lead from old pipes leached into drinking water in 2014 and 2015 due to a lack of corrosion-control treatment following a change in the water source while the financially strapped city was under state emergency management.” Seven other former government officials were granted deals from previous prosecutors and, like Snyder, avoided any legal repercussions. The crisis led to a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires disease.
That, along with the announcement from Harvard, has apparently made Snyder a very happy man who vowed to bring his “experience” to students at the famous university in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“I’m excited to join the talented faculty and staff there who are on the leading edge in improving public policy, civic engagement, and innovations in state and local government,” Snyder said in a statement. “I look forward to sharing my experiences in helping take Michigan to national leadership in job creation, improved government performance, and civility.”