Miami Herald

Michi­gan plans to charge ex-Gov. Sny­der in Flint wa­ter probe

- BY ED WHITE, DAVID EG­GERT AND TAMMY WEB­BER Crime · U.S. News · Michigan · Flint · Lyon · Republican Party (United States) · United States Office of Special Counsel · Richard Snyder · Covington, Michigan

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, 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 de­fense 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, 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 cost­sav­ing step while a pipe­line was be­ing built to Lake

Huron. The wa­ter, how­ever, was not treated to re­duce cor­ro­sion — a dis­as­trous de­ci­sion that was af­firmed by state reg­u­la­tors and caused lead to leach from old pipes and spoil the dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem used by nearly 100,000 res­i­dents.

Sny­der’s at­tor­ney, Brian Len­non, re­leased a blis­ter­ing state­ment Tues­day, 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 apol­o­gized for the catas­tro­phe dur­ing his 2016 State of the State speech and said gov­ern­ment at all lev­els had failed Flint.

LeeAnne Wal­ters, a mother of four who is cred­ited with ex­pos­ing the lead con­tam­i­na­tion, said she wants de­tails about the charges.

“The very fact that peo­ple are be­ing held ac­count­able is an amaz­ing feat,” Wal­ters said. “But when peo­ple’s lives have been lost and chil­dren have been se­verely hurt, it doesn’t seem like enough.”

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 be­hav­ior prob­lems. The cri­sis was high­lighted as an ex­am­ple of en­vi­ron­men­tal in­jus­tice and racism.

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