Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday that newly appointed Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud will take over the state’s ongoing Flint water crisis criminal prosecutions.
Nessel told the Advance Tuesday evening that Hammoud, who will be the nation’s first Muslim, Arab-American solicitor general, is the perfect person for the job, calling her a “rock star.” The attorney general said Hammoud’s family escaped from Lebanon when she was 11.
“She will serve our state well. She is everything our country should stand for. Her story is the American dream,” Nessel said.
Nessel was sworn into office on Jan. 1. Since then, there have been some moving parts on the Flint water issue, which is perhaps the most high-profile set of cases the attorney general’s office is involved in.
Hours after announcing on Tuesday Hammoud’s appointment as solicitor general, Nessel followed up with another news release. The attorney general said Hammoud will also now oversee the state’s criminal prosecution of 15 state and local officials related to Flint water contamination.
This came less than two weeks after Michigan’s new attorney general sent word that she would like Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy — who was a member of her transition team — to take over the job.
As lead prosecutor on the Flint criminal cases, Hammoud will oversee Todd Flood, a private attorney who was appointed as special prosecutor by GOP former Attorney General Bill Schuette. Flood will stay on the case.
On. Jan. 4, the attorney general’s said she had “requested that [Worthy’s] office take over the prosecution of the criminal cases on behalf of the Attorney General’s office, which is currently represented by private attorney Todd Flood.”
Flood had handled criminal proceedings related to the Flint water crisis. Nessel, a Democrat, previously said she wanted to replace Flood “due to conflicts created by the Department of Attorney General defending the state in civil cases brought by Flint residents.”
On Tuesday, Nessel said that the new arrangement of Hammoud supervising Flood will streamline the process and help bring resolution to the cases, which have cost Michigan taxpayers more than $30 million.
“The former Attorney General [Schuette] chose to personally select and supervise Mr. Flood and the criminal cases, which prevented him from being engaged or even informed on any of the civil cases related to Flint, including the lawsuits against various state departments and employees and the city of Flint,” Nessel said in a statement. “These cases have gone on for years and have cost the taxpayers of this state millions of dollars. It’s time for resolution and justice for the people of Flint.”
Flood said he was not personally informed of the decision prior to the press release. But he had high praise for the new solicitor general, describing her as “an excellent lawyer” and “a great mind.”
“It is a great decision; they didn’t have to explain why,” Flood said.
Worthy also praised Hammoud’s appointment in a statement released by Nessel’s office.
“Attorney General Nessel’s appointment of Fadwa Hammoud to serve as Michigan’s next Solicitor General is a brilliant choice. She is a visionary with an excellent work ethic,” Worthy said.
The Wayne County prosecutor will continue to separately review the case and determine whether she will be involved in the future, according to her spokeswoman, Maria Miller.
“She hasn’t determined that she’s going to do anything further than that,” Miller added.
Hammoud was previously lead attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and a former Gov. Rick Snyder appointee to the Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs. She is a trustee and treasurer of the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education.
Hammoud will now oversee ongoing cases against high-level state officials and local officials that Schuette’s AG office had deemed to be involved in the Flint water contamination crisis.
Under Schuette, Flood brought criminal charges against 15 current and former state and Flint employees. The charges ranged from misdemeanors to 15-year felonies for involuntary manslaughter. So far, six defendants have pleaded “no contest” to misdemeanors.
Michigan’s former Health and Human Services Department Director Nick Lyon and the state’s former chief medical executive, Eden Wells, were both charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people in 2014 and 2015 and sickened others.
Snyder-appointed Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose also were charged in the criminal probe, along with other local officials.