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Ties to Flint water doom candidate for civil rights post

Flint Water Plant tower photo
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A candidate for Michigan civil rights director has been rejected after concerns were raised about his connection to the Flint water crisis.

Harvey Hollins was turned down in a 4-4 vote Monday by the Civil Rights Commission, MLive.com reported.

Hollins was urban affairs adviser under Gov. Rick Snyder. He was among senior members of Snyder’s team who knew in 2015 about a spike in Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area. Experts linked it to bacteria in the water.

Snyder didn’t speak publicly about Legionnaires’ until early 2016.

“Our 2017 report on the Flint water crisis specifically found that racism was a key factor in the crisis,” Commissioner Zenna Faraj Elhasan said. “And I think hiring a candidate who was involved in that crisis goes directly against everything that department must prevent and that the commission is meant to protect against.”

Commissioner Portia Roberson said concerns about Hollins emerged in a survey of employees.

Commissioner Jeffrey Sakwa, who was in favor of hiring Hollins, said he’s “being penalized for something he’s not responsible for.”

Flint used the Flint River for 18 months without treating the water to reduce corrosion. The corrosive water allowed lead to leach from old pipes.