Former Gov. Rick Snyder (R), as well as Snyder’s ex-health director and other former health officials, are being charged in relation to the Flint, Mich. water crisis following a new investigation, according to the Associated Press.
Snyder, who pleaded not guilty in a Thursday morning court appearance, is being charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty.
Governmental malpractice left the majority-Black city of Flint with lead-contaminated water for years, causing at least 12 deaths and ongoing health issues for many community members, especially children.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP the defendants were informed of the indictments by the United States attorney general’s office on Tuesday.
Courtney Covington Watkins, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office, told the AP investigators are “working diligently” and “will share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so.”
None of those facing charges nor Gov. Gretchen Whitmer immediately released public statements. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel praised the prosecutions.
Snyder’s two terms as governor ended in 2014. Under his administration, Flint’s water supply — used by nearly 100,000 residents — was switched from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River to reduce costs. The water was not correctly treated and corroded the old pipes, leading to lead-contaminated water. The city is still in the process of replacing the corrupted pipelines.
A 2018 report, partially funded by the University of Michigan, said the former governor “bears significant legal responsibility” for his role overseeing the state agencies in charge of protecting public health. The report also said Snyder neglected his duties in failing to address the crisis sooner.
A spokesperson for Snyder has previously said the state took proactive steps to work with communities on the issues caused by the crisis.
Bacteria in the damaged water resulted in at least 90 cases of a severe form of pneumonia and at least 12 deaths. Former health director Nick Lyon, one of the individuals charged, previously said he knew of the reported cases months before the outbreak was publicly addressed by Snyder in January 2016.
Lyon was previously accused of involuntary manslaughter charges for failing to inform the public about the outbreak in a timely manner. In June 2019, prosecutors working under Nessel dismissed the case, as well as charges against seven other individuals.
The disaster in Flint gained national recognition, with many criticizing the city and state for extensive governmental mismanagement, environmental degradation and racial bias.
The Michigan Court of Appeals is hearing a large group of ongoing cases between multiple plaintiffs and the state of Michigan and the city of Flint, among other defendants. It is likely many of those cases will be resolved in a settlement between residents and the city and state, though some have protested the possible agreement saying it did not include all necessary measures.
This article has been updated to include the specific charges announced against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Daily Staff Reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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