UPDATE: Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette sent a stern and clear message to the state Friday saying Justice will be served for the city and its residents in response to the Flint water crisis.
As of Friday night, nine state employees are facing criminal charges for exposing thousands of residents to lead contaminated water.
Of those nine employees, six of them learned the Friday morning, as the attorney general held a news conference to announce the charges.
“In Michigan the system is not rigged. There is one system of justice it applies to everybody equally no matter who you are, period,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
On Friday, eighteen criminal charges twelve felonies and six misdemeanors were filed in Genesee County’s 67th District Court in Flint against six state employees.
“Those who committed crimes will be held accountable. And today, today we are announcing charges against 6 individuals from 2 state departments the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services,” said Schuette.
During the news conference, Schuette announced Liane Shekter-Smith, Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook from the DEQ are charged with failing to ensure safe and clean drinking water for flint despite complaints about water quality.
In addition charges also allege MDHHS employees Nancy Peeler, Robert Scott, and Corinne Miller discovered flint children were being poisoned by lead but kept that information from officials.
“Their offenses vary but there is an overall theme and repeated pattern. Each of these individuals attempted to bury or cover up to downplay to hide information that contradicted their own story,” said Schuette.
The DEQ and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services tells 6 News they will each be suspending two current employees without pay until further review of the charges.
Meanwhile, two other state employees charged Friday are no longer with either department.
FLINT, Mich. (AP) – The Michigan attorney general’s office on Friday charged six state employees with misconduct in office and other crimes stemming from the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint.
A judge authorized the charges filed by the office of Attorney General Bill Schuette against three employees from the Department of Environmental Quality – Liane Shekter Smith, Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook – and three from the Department of Health and Human Services – Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller and Robert Scott. Other charges against them include willful neglect of duty and various conspiracy counts, The Flint Journal reported.
Schuette announced the charges Friday at a news conference in Flint, a poor, majority-black city of 100,000 that for 18 months used the Flint River for tap water as a way to save money while a new pipeline was under construction. The decision was made by a state-appointed emergency manager. The water, which wasn’t treated to control corrosion, leached lead from aging pipes and fixtures as it flowed into homes and businesses in the city about 55 miles north of Detroit. Elevated levels of the toxin were discovered in children.
Shekter Smith, former head of the state’s drinking water office, appeared last month in a Detroit courtroom so her lawyer could assert her constitutional right against self-incrimination amid ongoing investigations. She hadn’t yet been charged but was reassigned after the water crisis came to light and her firing was announced in February. At the time, her lawyer said she hadn’t done anything wrong.
It’s the second round of charges stemming from the water crisis. In January, Schuette announced the appointment of a special counsel to help his office investigate whether laws were broken. In April, two state regulators and a city employee were charged with official misconduct, evidence-tampering and other offenses. At the time, the Republican attorney general guaranteed others would also be charged.
Flint utilities administrator Mike Glasgow struck a deal with prosecutors in May, pledging cooperation in exchange for reduced charges as authorities continue investigating lead contamination of the impoverished Michigan city’s drinking water supply. He entered a plea to one count of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor, in exchange for dismissal of a felony charge of tampering with evidence.
Two officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality also were charged were charged with misconduct, conspiracy, tampering with test results and misdemeanor violations of clean-water law and await preliminary examinations.
In June, Schuette filed a lawsuit against two water engineering companies, saying their negligence caused and exacerbated Flint’s lead-tainted water crisis and demanding what could total hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
The public health emergency was preceded by E. coli detections; resident complaints about color, odor and taste; and high levels of a disinfectant byproduct. A General Motors plant had stopped using the water just six months after the 2014 switch because it was rusting engine parts, and experts suspect a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak was tied to the water.
Gov. Rick Snyder has apologized for regulatory failures, and the state environmental agency has said it wasn’t required to add an anti-corrosion chemical until after a year of testing.
In March, a state task force that investigated the Flint crisis concluded that it was a “case of environmental injustice.” The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is holding public hearings on the matter.
Federal experts now say filtered tap water is safe for everyone to drink in Flint, although some doctors still are recommending bottled water for pregnant women and children ages 5 and younger.