Nine former Michigan officials, including ex-Gov. Rick Snyder was charged Thursday with their roles in the Flint water crisis in a case that a prosecutor said was about “finally, finally, holding people accountable.”
Snyder, 62, and eight others who worked under him face a series of allegations stemming from a 2014 water supply breaker that exposed Flint residents to dangerous levels of lead and legionnaires’ disease.
“Let me start by saying that the Flint water crisis is not a relic of the past,” Michigan solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud told reporters. “At this moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government who trampled on their trust and avoided accountability for far too long.”
State Attorney Dana Nessel appointed Hammoud and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy to investigate the case and dismissed previous charges brought by her predecessor, Bill Schuette.
Nessel is a Democrat, and Schuette, a Republican like Snyder, ran without success for governor in 2016.
“This case has nothing at all to do with partisanship,” Worthy said. “It has to do with human decency, the complete abandonment of the people of Flint and finally finally holding people accountable.”
“Pure and simple,” she added, “this case is about justice, truth, accountability, poisoned children, lost lives, broken families that are still not whole, and that simply bring prejudice to all of humanity.”
Earlier Thursday, during a virtual appearance before Genesee County Judge Christopher Odette, Snyder pleaded not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges.
Odette put the bond at $ 10,000 and ordered Snyder not to travel outside Michigan until at least his next trial, scheduled for Tuesday.
The former two-year-old governor spoke to the judge from a booth inside the county jail, where he wore a mask and sat next to his defense attorney, Brian Lennon.
Lennon called the case against Snyder “flimsy” and said that “this whole situation is confusing.”
“It would be a travesty to waste further taxpayers’ dollars on pursuing these false offenses,” he said in a statement.
Michigan’s former health director Nick Lyon was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of nine people who contracted legionnaires’ disease. He also pleaded guilty Thursday.
The other accused government officials were:
- Former Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr.Eden Wells, also charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter along with two counts of negligence in office and one for willful misconduct.
- Richard Baird, who worked as a senior adviser to Government Snyder, accused of perjury, misconduct, obstruction of justice and extortion.
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former communications director, charged with perjury linked to his testimony to state prosecutors.
- Darnell Earley, charged with two counts of misconduct on the subject based on his work as a state-appointed emergency chief in Flint.
- Another former emergency manager, Gerald Ambrose, accused of several cases of abuse in office.
- Howard Croft, Flint’s former director of public works, accused of two counts of intentional neglect of duty.
- Nancy Peeler, once head of the early childhood section of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, accused of two counts of misconduct in the office and one of willful misconduct.
Residents of the majority in the black town of Flint have struggled for years to recover as they relied on bottled water as their primary source of clean water, and their property values suffered.
Today, tests show that Flint’s water is safe to drink, but many residents, skeptical of officials, say they still do not trust city water.
In 2014, the Snyder administration switched Flint from Detroit’s water system to Flint River in an effort to reduce costs. This movement proved disastrous and exposed Flint residents to lead pollution from the new supply’s untreated river water.
Michigan agreed to a $ 600 million settlement in August in a class action lawsuit with Flint residents whose health was affected, and set up a fund from which residents can claim compensation.