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MDEQ director won’t take administrative action against employees until criminal cases resolved

(l to r) Joel Beauvais, Office of Water, EPA - Keith Creagh, Director, MDEQ - Marc Edwards, Virginia Tech - Lee Anne Walters, former Flint Resident
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The head of Michigan’s environmental regulatory agency says he won’t take any more administrative action against state employees involved in the Flint water crisis until the criminal cases against them are resolved.

In January, interim director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality Keith Creagh asked Michigan State Police to investigate employees in his department.

The report was finished in March, but it hasn’t been released to the public yet. A request for the report under the Freedom of Information Act is pending.

Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shannon Banner described the investigation as an internal, administrative investigation into whether employees violated state policies or work rules. MSP’s Professional Standards Section handled the investigation, which included interviewing nearly a dozen DEQ employees.

Banner says MSP did not find any criminal wrongdoing. If they had, Banner says they would’ve been obligated to broaden the scope of the investigation.

She says MSP’s findings were turned over to Creagh in a report on March 26. She says it’s up to Creagh what he’d like to do with the findings.

Governor Rick Snyder took some heat this month when he said he had not reviewed MSP’s investigation. Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Friday the governor still has not seen this report, “as the DEQ told us that it is not finalized and so has not been turned over to him.”

Creagh says he didn’t immediately send the report to the governor because it’s just one in a “myriad” of reports and investigations looking into potential wrongdoing at the DEQ.

“My responsibility, in my eyes, to the governor is to deliver an entire package and assure that he is fully informed as to the decisions as director that I make on employee’s employment status,” Creagh said.

So far, one state employee was fired and two others are on unpaid suspension because of the crisis. Creagh says he won’t take any administrative action until the criminal cases wrap up.

“My commitment both to the citizens of Michigan to make sure we get it right and to the employees of the DEQ is to look at things in totality and not have a rush to judgment,” he said.

A separate investigation launched by Michigan’s attorney general resulted in criminal charges against two DEQ employees. That and a third investigation, this one at the federal level, are ongoing.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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