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

Bus routes for CMSD82 students in Cablecar and Kitamaat Village have been temporarily changed for Jan. 21 and 22. (Black Press file photo)
Temporary school bus route changes for Cablecar, Kitamaat Village

The two routes will be combined for Jan. 21 and 22 due to a bus driver shortage

Haisla Bridge traffic will be impacted overnights from Jan. 20 to 23 due to District work. (Clare Rayment/Kitimat Northern Sentinel)
Haisla Bridge traffic impacted due to District work

The bridge will be single lane traffic overnights from Jan. 20 to 23

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

Black Press file photo
Fraud scam, car in ditch among weekly Kitimat RCMP report

Kitimat RCMP report from Dec. 18 to 24

(Mountainview Lodge photo)
Santa and Mrs. Claus payed a special visit to the residents at Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat back in December to help raise their spirits during the difficult Christmas season.
Good News, Kitimat!

Bringing some local good news to your week

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read