Authorities Seize Phones and Computers of Michigan Officials in Flint Water Crisis Investigation

Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on January 27, 2016
Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on January 27, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

Michigan authorities have seized the state-owned phone of former Governor Rick Snyder that was, until recently, in government storage, according to the Associated Press. The phones of 65 current and former officials were also seized as the state investigates the Flint water crisis.


Snyder and other top officials are at the center of an inquiry about Flint, Michigan’s water contamination after the source of the impoverished city’s drinking water was changed in 2014. The city’s primary water source was previously Lake Huron and the Detroit River before being switched to the Flint River, leading to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and other severe health problems for residents.

The phones and computer equipment were seized because evidence on the devices was “not provided to the original prosecution team from the onset of the investigation” according to Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who has been appointed to lead the latest investigation.

From the Associated Press:

One warrant, signed May 19, lists all content from Snyder’s state-issued cellphone, iPad and computer hard drive. Similar information was sought from the devices of 33 employees who worked in his office, 11 in the Department of Environmental Quality and 22 in the Department of Health and Human Services.

As the AP notes, the Flint water crisis is one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters in U.S. history, but no one has gone to prison over the decisions that led to this event. No state official has suffered real consequences at all, in fact.

The decision to switch the source of the drinking water exposed tens of thousands of residents to high levels of lead, which is especially harmful to children. Residents also experienced hair loss, rashes, and numerous other ailments from the water.


The federal government declared a state of emergency for Flint in 2016 but that expired in August of that year. State authorities have led the investigation into the crisis since then, and despite promises from President Donald Trump to help the people of Flint, no money has been specially allocated to address the people who have suffered.

It remains to be seen what information state investigators will find on Snyder’s devices. Activist filmmaker Michael Moore, a Flint native, has called for Snyder’s arrest. But Snyder has so far evaded any accountability for the disaster.


Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog


Richard Dawson's Ghost

It’s good to see that justice is working effectively and swiftly, and it only took... :checks notes: five years to take any sort of action.

And you still can’t drink the water in Flint.