Problems in Michigan show rift over officials
Darnell Earley didn’t come up with the plan to channel corrosive river water into Flint’s old lead-lined water pipes, causing a health emergency. And he certainly can’t be blamed for the Detroit school system’s decaying facilities and wrecked finances, which have prompted teacher boycotts this month.
But the 64-year-old budget expert was in charge of Flint’s city government and the Detroit schools at key points in their recent turmoil, and that has made him a focal point of anger about Gov. Rick Snyder’s use of “emergency managers” to temporarily run public entities in Michigan that are hopelessly in debt.
Earley, who had a 40-year career in public administration in Michigan, was one of seven outside controllers appointed in the last five years to fix foundering cities or school districts.
In October 2013, he took over control of Flint, a majority black city of 100,000 north of Detroit where more than 40 percent of the population was below the poverty line. He was the third of four managers sent in to cut costs and deal with the city’s $13 million deficit.
During Earley’s 16 months as Flint’s emergency manager, the city went ahead with a plan to save money by switching its water supply from the Detroit system to a new pipeline consortium, and to use Flint River water until the new pipeline was ready. However, anti-corrosion agents were not added to the salty river water, causing metal leaching in city pipes and dangerously elevated lead levels among some residents. The state declared an emergency and began distributing bottled water.
Earley declined to speak to The Associated Press, but he defended his work Sunday on WDIV-TV.