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Snyder appointee contradicts him on Legionnaires' outbreak

Posted October 6

— A Michigan official testified Friday that he told Gov. Rick Snyder about a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Flint area late in 2015, contradicting the governor who has repeatedly insisted that he didn't learn about it until some weeks later in 2016.

Harvey Hollins, who was coordinating the state's response to the Flint water crisis, said he asked Snyder by phone in December 2015 if he was aware of the outbreak, which some experts have linked to the city's poor water quality.

"He was not aware of that," said Hollins, a Snyder appointee.

The governor, however, told Congress and the public that he was in the dark until Nick Lyon, his state health director, informed him in January 2016. He held a news conference and announced the outbreak.

The issue emerged as Hollins testified at a court hearing involving Lyon, head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter in one man's death and misconduct in office. Prosecutors say he failed to alert the public quickly about Legionnaires'.

A judge must decide whether to send Lyon to trial. It's not clear how Hollins' testimony about the governor would help persuade Judge David Goggins. The hearing resumes on Nov. 1.

"I needed to show probable cause in this case and that's what I'm going to (do), about what happened and what failed to happen," special prosecutor Todd Flood said after the hearing.

Snyder's spokeswoman, Anna Heaton, declined to comment. U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat from the Flint area, said he wants a House committee to re-examine the governor's Capitol Hill testimony from 2016 about the timeline.

Earlier Friday, a pediatrician who was a member of a state task force on Flint water said Lyon was "glib" and "dismissive" when he asked him about Legionnaires'.

"With about 35 years of experience, you get a feeling for when you're getting the whole story, part of the story or a variation thereof," Dr. Lawrence Reynolds testified.

Fifteen people have been charged in the investigation of how Flint's water system became poisoned after the city used the Flint River for 18 months. The water wasn't treated to reduce corrosion. As a result, lead leached from old pipes.

Nearly 100 Legionnaires' cases, including 12 deaths, were also detected while Flint was using the river in 2014-15. Legionnaires' is a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria, called legionella, that thrive in warm water and infect the lungs.

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