Published: Thu, January 14, 2021

Michigan Ex-Governor Charged over Flint Water Crisis

Michigan Ex-Governor Charged over Flint Water Crisis

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been criminally charged by the Michigan attorney general's office with two counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with the Flint water crisis, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday night.

Although he has previously apologized for allowing the city's water to become contaminated with lead and bacteria, many Flint residents blamed Snyder for the crisis because of his failure to change the city's water source from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015 - a time when emergency managers he appointed were in charge of the city's affairs.

The Detroit News has reported that as many as 10 people in all faced charges stemming from the water crisis, including some former members of Snyder's administration.

The meager but groundbreaking charges against Snyder-the first governor in Michigan's 184-year history to be charged with crimes related to their time in office-were made public following a bombshell report by Jordan Chariton and Jenn Dize for The Intercept, which obtained documents suggesting that Snyder "knew about a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Flint as early as October 2014, when there was still a significant amount of time to save lives". Prosecutors dropped previous charges in 2019, pledging a more thorough probe.

It stems from a decision billed as a way to save money and only supposed to be a temporary fix while officials built a pipeline to nearby Lake Huron. "It was October 16 and 17 that stood out to investigators, and seemed to indicate that Snyder knew about unsafe bacteria in Flint's water in October 2014: 16 months earlier than he testified to Congress. The Intercept obtained phone records from search warrants that showed an all-out blitz of calls between Snyder [and other MI officials]". She said the first team had failed to collect all available evidence.

Michigan's former governor has been charged over the deadly contamination of water in the city of Flint. The deal established a process for submitting claims, with almost 80% of the money earmarked for claimants who were minors when exposed to the tainted water. The water supply the city moved to use, however, was contaminated with lead and other toxins. A judge said she hopes to decide by January 21 whether to grant preliminary approval.

The station adds not everyone is happy with the settlement.

"We believe the proposed settlement as now allocated is just as disrespectful as the injury caused by the water crisis tragedy itself", McClain told MPR.

Separately, the state, Flint, a hospital and an engineering firm have agreed to a US$641 million settlement with residents over the water crisis, with $600 million coming from MI.

The "wait-and-see approach was a really bad idea", experts told MPR, because without the necessary treatment "the protective coating on the inside of the pipes that built up over the years from Detroit's water likely disappeared".

Snyder has said the water crisis was caused by a series of failures in all levels of government.

A resident, Edna Sabucco, 61, said she still uses water filters, although the lead service line at her home of 40-plus years has been replaced, along with more than 9,700 others in Flint.

"Your families face a crisis, a crisis which you did not create and could not have prevented", Snyder said. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me.

More than a dozen state and city officials were indicted for their roles in the crisis.

An involuntary manslaughter conviction carries up to 15 years in prison and a $7,500 fine.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution said the attorney general's office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. "So we in Flint need to hold on to some hope that we will once again make history by holding those in power accountable for their actions, just like you or I would be".

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