Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Updates On Flint Water Crisis Investigation: Emergency Manager, DTE, DWSD, GLWA, GM, TARP, Carlyle Group, Dana Nessel & Her New Special Prosecutor

Yes, the Flint Water Crisis will end up in Detroit because everyone was stealin' so the new Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is going to send in her gurl, Kym Worthy, to see who is under investigation so they can be proactive in taking over the prosecution to save her crew.

It may a campaign financing promise, but, hey, what do I know?

I know this case goes way back and Dana has no intention of addressing trafficking of tiny humans or child poverty in Michigan because her crew needs to fund more campaigns, but then again, child welfare is under a federal investigative purview as is the entire election of 2018.

Anyway, 2019 is going to be busy, busy, busy because there shall be lots of clowning.

FUN FACT! GM TOOK TARP

Another MDEQ employee pleads no contest to Flint water crisis charges

FLINT (WJRT) (1/7/2019) - Another Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employee has pleaded no contest to charges related to the Flint water crisis.

Liane Shekter-Smith, the department's former chief of drinking water and municipal assistance, originally was charged in July 2016 with two felonies and one misdemeanor charge.

She pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing a lawful meeting, which carries a possible penalty of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The other charges were dropped in exchange for her plea.

As part of the plea agreement with Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, Shekter-Smith must testify against other government officials charged in the Flint water cases. She likely will be a witness in the upcoming preliminary hearing for former Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and former Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft.

If she provides misleading statements or fails to cooperate with prosecutors, Flood said a guilty plea to a five-year felony charge of misconduct in office will automatically be entered on her behalf. A review to determine whether she complied with the plea agreement is scheduled for April.

Shekter-Smith and other DEQ officials are accused of failing to do their jobs and provide safe drinking water for Flint residents after the switch to pump water from the Flint River in 2014.
Fellow DEQ officials Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch both pleaded no contest on Dec. 26 to misconduct in office and tampering with water monitoring reports -- both felonies -- along with misdemeanor violations of Michigan's drinking water law.

With Shekter-Smith's plea, seven of 15 people facing criminal charges related to the water crisis have pleaded guilty or no contest. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as one at sentencing.

Then, this happened...

Flood won’t comment on AG’s request for new Flint water prosecutor

FLINT, MI -- Three days after new Attorney General Dana Nessel said she wants to replace him, special Flint water prosecutor Todd Flood showed up for work, struck a plea deal with a former state drinking water official and refused to talk about his job security.

Flood answered several questions about his future and Nessel with “no comment” on Monday, Jan. 7, following continuation of a preliminary exam in Genesee District Court.

Nessel issued a news release Friday, Jan. 4, saying she had provided Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, a member of her transition team, “with the relevant materials related to the (Flint water) cases and has requested that her office take over the prosecution of the criminal cases on her behalf.”

Worthy issued her own statement Friday, saying she would evaluate the remaining criminal cases filed by Flood but not necessarily replace him.

That sounds like code for, "I am just going to take a look to see who is going to be charged so I can put together a defensive strategy for Dana and company."

Flood was appointed to the job by former Attorney General Bill Schuette. He’s charged 15 current and former city and state government officials with crimes related to the water crisis.

Seven of those cases resulted in plea agreements, three have been bound over to Genesee Circuit Court for jury trials and five are in the process of preliminary examinations in Genesee District Court.

As a candidate for office earlier this year, Nessel was among critics of the Flint water prosecutions, calling them “politically charged show trials” but didn’t say for certain if Flood would be replaced.
Despite the uncertainty, the special prosecutor is operating as though he plans to continue working on the cases.

Flood told District Judge Jennifer Manley on Monday that he doesn’t need to return to court to check on the status of the cooperation of former Department of Environmental Quality official Liane Shekter-Smith until at least February. That’s after she’s expected to testify in the preliminary exams for former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley and Howard Croft.

Last month, Flood told Genesee Circuit Judge Joseph Farah that he anticipated remaining on the job after the transition from Schuette to Nessel.

But, the Flint Water Crisis, which happened under the Emergency Manager Law, is still a matter of interest for Elijah Cummings, Chair of the U.S. House Oversight Committee.

No Flint water crisis if no Karegnondi Water Authority

KWA started “greatest water war in Michigan history”
GLWA widened war, taking over all of  DWSD
KWA initiator Jeff Wright, a Democrat, tied to scandal-plagued Synagro, alleged money-laundering, shady campaign financing
 
Wright prioritized selling untreated water to DTE, other businesses over the people’s need for treated water

Karegnondi Water Group members get Bond Buyers' "Midwest Deal of the year award in 2014.
Karegnondi Water Group members get Bond Buyers’
“Midwest Deal of the Year” award in 2014.
Without them, the poisoning of Flint would not have happened.
DETROIT – The mass lead poisoning of the people of Flint, Michigan, a cold-blooded act of domestic terrorism, was contrived for the profit of the Wall Street bond market, corporations and politicians by both Republicans and Democrats with their own agendas.

The two parties are battling the matter out in electoral debates, with Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder justifiably though hypocritically castigated by Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton for his role in this unspeakable catastrophe.

“The governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care,” Clinton said during the NBC News debate in Charleston, S.C. “If the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.” Clinton’s Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders simply asked Snyder to resign.

In the most  cynically exploitative campaign move so far, Clinton just published the video below. It calls for donations to a Flint non-profit, rather than pledging billions from the U.S. Treasury to save Flint, just as the U.S. Treasury bailed out General Motors, which left Flint, taking with it 72,000 jobs.


No politician has expressed any intention of locking Snyder and cronies up for life without parole, the only sentence appropriate under Michigan law, or of providing the billions of dollars necessary to rebuild not only Flint’s water infrastructure, but the city itself, devastated for decades by its abandonment by General Motors and other corporations.

Ten Flint residents have already died from Legionnaire’s disease linked to contamination of the city’s water.  Tens of thousands more, especially children and babies, face irreversible life-time damage due to the neurological and behavioral effects of lead, according to the World Health Organization.
GMFlintbox
A petition to recall Snyder has finally 
been approved by the notoriously recalcitrant State Elections Board and will no doubt receive mass support, as it should.

But make no mistake—getting rid of Snyder will not cut out the cancer of racism and profiteering that has devastated Flint, Detroit, and cities across the U.S. for years.

The most blatant example of the bi-partisan midwifery of the Flint water catastrophe is the creation of the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), in what a Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) spokesman called “the greatest water war in Michigan’s history.”

He was quoted before the creation of the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which has since robbed the people of Detroit, the largest Black majority city in the U.S., of the entire DWSD, the country’s third largest water and sewerage system, founded in 1836, which had been serving 40 percent of Michigan’s population.

The poisoning of the city of Flint, which is also a majority Black, would not have happened without the creation of the KWA at the instigation of Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright, a white Democrat who has been Drain Commissioner since 2001 and spent 23 years prior to that in the department under former Drain Commissioner Anthony Ragnone.

According to U.S. Census figures, Genesee County is 75.2 percent white, and 20.6 percent Black, with a 21 percent poverty level. Flint is 37.4 percent white, and 56.6 percent Black, with a 41.5 percent poverty level.

Jeff Wright, CEO of KWA, Genesee County Drain Commissioner
Jeff Wright, CEO of KWA, Genesee County Drain Commissioner
In 2013, the KWA began building a 63-mile pipeline to Lake Huron that runs parallel to DWSD’s pipeline for the region. While boasting it will lower water rates, the Authority admits the pipeline will only deliver raw water, unlike the DWSD, which delivers fully treated water. Communities which sign on to it will have to treat their own water, creating ways to do so at additional costs to customers and profits to contractors. Wright said in 2011 that he wanted to bring raw water in for the benefit of businesses in the area.

The pipeline was supposed to have been up for operation by 2015.

The KWA now includes the “Genesee County Drain Commissioner, Lapeer County Drain Commissioner, Lapeer City, Sanilac County Drain Commissioner and the City of Flint,” according to its website. St. Clair County is reportedly also considering membership as Wright courts more regional customers.

Wright, who has a history of shady dealings with water contractors, began the push to create the KWA in 2006. Snyder’s appointee, Flint Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz, later endorsed it as well. In 2013, Wright got the Democratic City Council of Flint to agree to disconnect the city from the DWSD, which had supplied high-quality water to Flint residents since 1967, and connect with the KWA instead.

Due to KWA construction delays, however, Snyder and Kurtz ordered the ultimately disastrous long-term use of the polluted Flint River in the interim, falsely claiming that Detroit had refused to negotiate better rates for its Genesee County customers. While the Flint Water Treatment Plant, using the Flint River, has always been a back-up water supply to DWSD, which gets its water from Lake Huron, the plant was never outfitted to operate with river water for more than 20 days, on an emergency basis.
DTE's Greenwood Energy Center
DTE’s Greenwood Energy Center in Avoca, MI
is on the proposed Karegnondi line.

VOD reader Peter Bernard wrote, “DTE has been involved in the formation of KWA since the beginning. DTE didn’t need treated water to run its turbines. Was it the demand of DTE for untreated water as soon as Flint withdrew from DWSD that caused Flint to pump untreated water into its supply system? I worked for Detroit Edison as a summer intern 60 years ago and they always thought pure water was an extra expense since super-heated stem automatically purified the water driving the steam turbines.”

In 2011, Ron Fonger of the Flint Journal reported that DTE told the KWA board it was interested in purchasing up to three million gallons of untreated water per day from the Authority for its Greenwood Energy Plant.

“Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright called the news ‘very encouraging’ during a meeting of the KWA Board of Directors today, and said others could follow ‘as more businesses are made aware of (what we are doing and) the lower cost of untreated water,'” Fonger wrote, adding that Wright said KWA would work with DTE.
Map shows KWA pipeline in red, DWSD pipelines in blue.
Map shows KWA pipeline in red,
DWSD pipelines in blue.

In 2014, the Bond Buyer magazine gave KWA the Midwest Bond Buyer of the Year award during an elaborate ceremony in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, for its second sale of $220 million in bonds to finance the pipeline, an intake facility, and two pumping stations.

It earlier sold $35 billion in bonds despite Detroit’s bankruptcy filing.

“Long before Detroit filed its Chapter 9 bankruptcy case in the summer of 2013, Flint and Genesee County, Michigan saw the need to break away from their dependence on the Detroit water system,” the narrator of a video shown at the ceremony said in a disingenuous, factually inaccurate introduction.
“In 2010 they formed the Karegnondi Water Authority, the two governments’ long-term strategy to deliver a more reliable water supply at more reasonable rates. After years of planning and crafting a bond structure with dual backstops to protect investors, the Authority hit the market in early April with its inaugural issue for $220 million in bonds. . . .The governments expect to cover the debt repayments with system revenues, and both put their limited tax GBO payments behind the bonds.”

The narrator said that Genesee County also pledged to cover Flint’s portions of the bonds if it is not able to do so under state emergency management.
Former Detroit CFO Sean Werdlow and former
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick receive Bond Buyer award in 2004
for disastrous $1.5 billion COPS deal.

“Entering a market where local governments across Michigan faced heightened penalties, the authorities sold the bonds to more than 30 investors and achieved borrowing costs below projections,” the narrator said. “The deal paves the way for the County to trade in annual rate increases of about 11.5 percent for ones closer to five.”

The presentation recalled a similar Bond Buyer award given to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his then-CFO Sean Werdlow in 2004, for the disastrous sale of $1.5 billion in “Certificates of Participation,” or “Pension Obligation Bonds,” an amount that ballooned to $2.8 billion with default penalties and interest swaps. Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr cited the deal as one reason for his improperly authorized 2013 Detroit Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, but never followed through on a lawsuit he filed calling it “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable.”

Below is the video presented at the Bond Buyer 2014 awards ceremony, on the Karegnondi Water Authority and the bonds involved.

In 2013, Tucker, Young, Jackson and Tull (TYJT), a Detroit-based engineering and consulting company, was contracted by the Michigan Department of Treasury to provide a study of the proposed KWA, contrasting it with the advantages of Flint remaining with the DWSD. The study strongly contradicted claims the Bond Buyer made at the 2014 awards ceremony, and other made in a study contracted by the community of Swartz Creek. (See full TYJT study at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/FLINT-KWA-TYJT-water_report.pdf,)

DWSD spokesman Bill Johnson
DWSD spokesman Bill Johnson
“The Flint City Council’s approval of the Genesee County Drain Commission-backed idea to link Flint and a proposed multi-county connector effectively launched the greatest water war in Michigan’s history, “ Bill Johnson, communications head for the DWSD, said in a press release. “The action ignores a credible state-sponsored study that came out against the ill-advised Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) project. And the vote makes no connection to Flint’s fiscal reality. All things considered, the City of Flint is best served by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).” (See full release at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/water_war_undermines_flint-dwsd_relations-2013-14.pdf.)

The study concluded that the cheapest and safest option out of eight through 2042 for Flint’s water supply was to provide it directly through an adaptation of DWSD’s Imlay City pumping station, which is closer to Flint. DWSD has always provided water for the area through its Lake Huron Water Treatment Plant at Ft. Gratiot, Michigan, which sends it to the Imlay City station to go to Flint. Flint then supplies it to other regional customers.  (See graph below.)

DWSD v KWA chart
TYJT noted that the KWA proposal did not account for cost overruns on construction contracts, an almost inevitable occurrence, or provide a back-up water supply as does the DWSD for all its customers in the event of failure of the primary supply.

Why did Wright ignore this study? His connections with shady contractors during his tenure as Genesee County Drain Commissioner beginning in 2001, and earlier in his 23 years serving under former Drain Commissioner Anthony Ragnone, are well-known.

Southwest community organizer Denise Hearn leads protest against Synagro boondoogle outside the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant July 31, 2008.
Southwest community organizer Denise Hearn leads protest against Synagro’s Detroit boondoogle outside the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant July 31, 2008.
Wright himself formerly owned a water consulting business called Tara/Aqua Management. During his term as Commissioner, he has signed multiple contracts with Synagro Technologies, Inc. for sewage sludge removal, dewatering, and land application at the county’s Linden and Ragnone treatment plants, from 2002 through 2009, according to a 2010 Flint Journal expose by reporter Ron Fonger.

At least two of the Genesee Drain Commission Synagro contracts, in 2003 and 2005, were signed by James Rosendall, former Synagro vice-president of development who went to prison for 11 months, in connection with the Synagro/Carlyle  bribery scandal that brought down former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, DWSD head Victor Mercado, and former City Council President Monica Conyers, among other Black city officials.
Synagro VP James Rosendall.
Synagro VP James Rosendall

Rosendall was the only white who was jailed, while Black officials who refused to act as FBI informants received terms as long as five years.

Judge Avern Cohn barred the defense from asking why Synagro and the Carlyle Group were not charged in the RICO indictment.

Whatever you do, do not tell anyone the reason why the defense was barred from asking why Synagro and the Carlyle Group was not charged in the RICO indictment was because there was an ongoing investigation into other matters of interest.  Sssshhhh.......

Wright was an FBI informant against Conyers’ aide Sam Riddle during the probe. Many officials involved in the probe acted as informants rather than being charged as well.

Synagro was purchased by the insidious Carlyle Group in 2007, one of the largest private equity and alternative investment firms in the world which has extensive ties to the global defense industry.

The Carlyle Group’s board has included politicians from around the world, including former U.S. Presidents George H. W Bush and George W. Bush, and their former cabinet members U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, also former chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Arthur Levitt, who served under Pres. Bill Clinton.

It is connected to the Bin Laden family and to former Phillippines dictator Fidel Ramos, among numerous others. Synagro went bankrupt in 2013 and was sold.

carlyleconnectionsThe KWA’s current major contractors include the omnipresent L D’Agostini & Sons, based in Macomb, at a starting cost $24.6 million for the pipeline and $11.06 million for the intake station on Lake Huron. D’Agostini earlier sued the DWSD because it was barred from further contracting with the department after its involvement in the RICO indictment of Kilpatrick et. al. was exposed. D’Agostini previously did 70 percent of its business with the Department.

The Alabama-based American Cast Iron Pipe Company, which operates one of the largest ductile iron pipe casting plants in the world, has a contract with a starting cost of $84.1 million, while the Flint-based E & L Construction’s contract for the Imlay City pump station has a starting cost of $11.78 million. All this work duplicates DWSD pipelines and intake and pumping stations already servicing the area.

Pipe for Karegnondi Water Authority is hoisted into Lake Huron.
Pipe for Karegnondi Water Authority is hoisted into Lake Huron.
Recently, Channel 2 reporter Charlie LeDuff interviewed Jeff Wright in a story focusing on the profits made by contractors on the Flint water switch. They included Kurtz campaign contributors AECOM, with $18 billion in revenues in 2015, and the engineering firm hired to ensure that the switch to Flint River water would be safe, LAN (Lockwood, Andrews and Norman).

LeDuff reports that firm’s original contract began at $140,000 and ballooned later to $4 million, despite the fact that it did NOTHING to ensure the safety of the city’s water.

(VOD takes issue with LeDuff’s initial contention that Flint ratepayers decided to opt for the KWA because they were paying “outrageous” rates to Detroit. That is a claim that has been made by DWSD’s wholesale customers in six counties for decades, never with an addendum that the communities involved add their own surcharges to the wholesale rates. LeDuff also appears to conclude at the end that water flowing through Flint’s pipes now from DWSD is safe, which it will not be until complete replacement of the corroded infrastructure. )

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