LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged Wednesday with willful neglect of duty in the Flint water crisis nearly seven years ago.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed the two charges one day before her office was set to announce new details about the investigation into the water crisis, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The public health scandal forced thousands of Flint residents to line up for bottled water, while the city had to replace lead and galvanized steel service lines, MLive reported.
Snyder was governor when state-appointed managers in Flint switched the city’s water to the Flint River as a cost-saving step while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron, the Free Press reported. However, the water was not treated to reduce corrosion, which caused lead to leak from old pipes and poison the distribution system used by nearly 100,000 residents, the newspaper reported.
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a spokesperson for Nessel, said she could not confirm or deny the charges. Snyder’s attorney did not return requests for comment Wednesday, the newspaper reported. Snyder’s attorney, Brian Lennon, said he could not immediately comment.
According to a state archivist, no governor or former governor in Michigan’s 184-year history has been charged with crimes related to their time in that office, The Associated Press reported.
Besides Snyder, other people may be charged, MLive reported. They include Rich Baird, a Flint native who worked as a top aide to Snyder during his administration; Nick Lyon, the former Health and Human Services director under Snyder; and Howard Croft, the head of Flint’s Public Works Department from 2011 to November 2015.
Baird’s attorney, Randall Levine, confirmed Tuesday he was told that charges were forthcoming. Croft’s attorney, Jamie White, also confirmed knowing about upcoming charges, the website reported. A spokesperson for Lyon would not confirm whether Lyon had been told to expect an indictment, but he said “they have every reason to believe this is likely to happen,” MLive reported.
Authorities counted at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, including 12 deaths, blaming a low amount of chlorine in the water treatment system to control it, the AP reported.