Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder facing neglect charges over Flint water crisis
Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is being charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty stemming from the Flint water crisis, according to online court documents. The crisis, which began in 2014, left the city of Flint’s drinking water contaminated with lead and some have blamed it for a 2016 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed at least 12 people.
Neglect of duty is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000.
Brian Lennon, an attorney representing Snyder, told CBS News, “We believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against Governor Snyder.”
“We have asked the Michigan Attorney General’s Office of Special Counsel for a copy of or at least confirmation of the charges ahead of tomorrow’s arraignment, and she has not yet provided us with either,” Lennon said. “It’s difficult for us to comment on something we have not yet seen.”
Howard Croft, Flint’s former Department of Public Works director, is also facing two counts of willful neglect of duty, according to court documents. Croft’s attorney confirmed the charges to CBS News on Wednesday night, and said he will turn himself in at 8 a.m. on Thursday.
Jamie White, an attorney representing Croft, told CBS News on Tuesday they were told to expect charges, but were not informed what the charges would be.
White insisted Croft did nothing wrong, saying, “The idea that because he was the city works manager, and therefore knew the water was contaminated and did nothing about it, is just not supported by the facts.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy are scheduled to speak at a press conference Thursday morning to announce the outcome of the state’s criminal investigation into the crisis.
Representatives for Rich Baird, a former aid to Snyder, also confirmed they were told to expect charges.
An attorney for former health director Nick Lyon would not confirm if Lyon was told to expect charges, but told CBS News any charges filed against his client would be “an absolute travesty of justice.”
Lyon had previously been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the crisis stemming from an investigation that began while Snyder was still in office. The charges against Lyon and several other officials were abruptly dropped in 2019 and a new investigation began under Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The crisis began in 2014, when the city of Flint switched its water source from treated water from Detroit to the Flint River in an effort to save money. The city failed to treat the water properly, which caused excess amounts of lead to leach from old pipes into the water and be pumped directly into Flint homes.
According to The Associated Press, authorities found 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, where Flint is located, including 12 deaths. Some experts determined the water-treatment system lacked enough chlorine to control legionella bacteria.
However, legal representatives for Lyon dispute the cause of the outbreak. They noted a 2019 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions that found evidence that the same strain of legionella bacteria has been infecting people at a local hospital since 2008, well before the city changed its water source.
According to Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley, the replacement of household water service lines is “nearly complete.” Of the 26,750 lines that have been excavated, fewer than 500 are left to be checked, Neeley said in a statement.
Adam Brewster, Sarah Barth, Adriana Diaz, Zoe Christen Jones, Jordan Freiman and The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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