FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2018, file photo, former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. Former Gov. Snyder, Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2018, file photo, former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his State of the State address at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich. Former Gov. Snyder, Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

Michigan plans to charge ex-governor in Flint lead-contaminated water scandal

Flint water scandal devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15, The Associated Press has learned.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP on Tuesday that the attorney general’s office has informed defence lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The AP could not determine the nature of the charges against Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon and others who were in his administration, including Rich Baird, a friend who was the governor’s key troubleshooter while in office.

Courtney Covington Watkins, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said only that investigators were “working diligently” and “will share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so.”

Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, released a blistering statement, saying a criminal prosecution would be “outrageous.” He said state prosecutors have refused to “share information about these charges with us.”

“Rather than following the evidence to find the truth, the Office of Special Counsel appears to be targeting former Gov. Snyder in a political escapade,” Lennon said.

Snyder, a Republican who has been out of office for two years, was governor when state-appointed managers in Flint switched the city’s water to the Flint River in 2014 as a cost-saving step while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. The water, however, was not treated to reduce corrosion — a disastrous decision affirmed by state regulators that caused lead to leach from old pipes and spoil the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents.

The disaster made Flint a nationwide symbol of governmental mismanagement, with residents lining up for bottled water and parents fearing that their children had suffered permanent harm. Lead can damage the brain and nervous system and cause learning and behaviour problems. The crisis was highlighted as an example of environmental injustice and racism.

At the same time, bacteria in the water was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires’. Legionella bacteria can emerge through misting and cooling systems, triggering a severe form of pneumonia, especially in people with weakened immune systems. Authorities counted at least 90 cases in Genesee County, including 12 deaths.

The outbreak was announced by Snyder and Lyon in January 2016, although Lyon conceded that he knew that cases were being reported many months earlier.

In 2018, Lyon was ordered to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges after a special prosecutor accused him of failing to timely inform the public about the outbreak. His attorneys argued there was not enough solid information to share earlier.

By June 2019, the entire Flint water investigation was turned upside down after more than three years and millions of dollars. Prosecutors working under a new attorney general, Dana Nessel, dismissed the case against Lyon as well as charges against seven more people and said the probe would start anew.

The decision didn’t affect seven people who had already pleaded no contest to misdemeanours. They co-operated with investigators and their records were eventually scrubbed clean.

Lyon’s attorney said he was turned down when he asked prosecutors for a copy of new charges. The new case “would be a travesty of justice,” Chip Chamberlain said.

“It appears that the attorney general is more interested in creating a misleading narrative, seeking publicity and trial by ambush, than in seeking the truth,” Chamberlain said.

Testimony at court hearings had raised questions about when Snyder knew about the Legionnaires’ outbreak. His urban affairs adviser, Harvey Hollins, told a judge that the governor was informed on Christmas Eve 2015. But Snyder had told reporters three weeks later, in January 2016, that he had just learned about it.

Defence attorney Randy Levine said he was informed Monday that Baird, a Flint native, would face charges.

“When the Flint water crisis hit, he wasn’t assigned by Gov. Snyder to go to Flint, but rather he raised his hand and volunteered,” Levine said.

Separately, the state, Flint, a hospital and an engineering firm have agreed to a $641 million settlement with residents over the water crisis, with $600 million coming from Michigan. A judge is considering whether to grant preliminary approval.

READ MORE: Jaden Smith’s foundation bringing clean water to Flint

___

Eggert reported from Lansing.

___

Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez

Ed White And David Eggert, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Water

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Most Read