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Hearing raises questions about when Gov. Snyder knew about deadly Legionnaires' outbreak

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
Advisor Harvey Hollins (seated) testifies in a preliminary exam about his conversation with Gov. Rick Snyder about Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County.

A court hearing concerning the state health director’s handling of a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak abruptly ended today amid questions about when the governor knew about the outbreak.

Governor Rick Snyder testified last year before Congress that he learned of the Legionnaires' outbreak in Genesee County in January 2016. 

But under questioning from Special Counsel Todd Flood, Harvey Hollins, the governor’s point man on Flint, testified that he talked to the governor about the outbreak in December 2015.

“I asked him if he was aware of that,” Hollins said on the witness stand.

“You asked who? The governor?” questioned Flood.

“The governor … if he was aware of that.” Replied Hollins.

“What did the governor tell you,” asked Flood.

“He was not aware of that,” Hollins answered.

The governor’s office declined to comment on the testimony.

“We don't comment on the investigation or the judicial proceedings,” says Anna Heaton, from the governor’s press office.

Hollins’ testimony not only raises the question of when the governor knew about the Legionnaires' disease outbreak, but also why state health department director Nick Lyon didn't inform the governor about the Legionnaires' outbreak earlier.

State health department officials, including Lyon, were aware of a spike in Legionnaires' cases in Genesee County in January 2015. But no public alert was issued until a year later.

From 2014 thru 2015, at least a dozen people died from the deadly pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacteria. Dozens more were hospitalized. 

Earlier in the day, another witness testified that Nick Lyon was “glib” when discussing the Legionella problem in 2015.

Dr. Lawrence Reynolds is the former head of the Genesee County Medical Society. Reynolds testified he was “disappointed in the quality” of Lyon’s answers to his questions about Legionnaires' in 2015.     

Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of man who died of Legionnaires' in 2015.

A judge will have to decide at the end of the current preliminary exam if there is enough evidence to send the case to trial. The prosecution has more potential witnesses to present. The hearing will resume November 1.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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