Ex-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder criminally charged for role in Flint water crisis

Ex-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was charged Thursday with two counts of willful neglect of duty in connection with the ongoing Flint water crisis.

According to MLive, Snyder, 62, was one of nine former or current officials charged in connection with the ongoing crisis. A secret grand jury reportedly handed down the criminal charges after hearing evidence and witness testimony in this case.

Nick Lyon, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, was charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter and a count of willful neglect of duty. Former chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Eden Wells, was charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of misconduct in office, and a count of willful neglect of duty.

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Other officials charged in connection with the crisis are Flint emergency managers, members of Snyder’s administration, and the former director of Flint’s Department of Public Works, who are facing various charges, including perjury, misconduct in office, and obstruction of justice.

Snyder, a Republican, served as governor from 2011 to 2019. MLive reported that Snyder not only played down the severity of the Flint water crisis in 2014 and 2015, but the emergency managers he appointed made several decisions that resulted in the city getting their drinking water from the Flint River.

State officials reportedly selected the Flint River as a cost-saving option while a pipeline was being constructed to Lake Huron. Water from the Flint River was not treated to prevent corrosion — resulting in the lead from the old pipes contaminating the drinking water distributed to almost 100,000 residents, according to the Associated Press.

Fatal outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014 and 2015 were eventually attributed to the contaminated drinking water. Despite this, Snyder and Lyon did not publicly disclose issues with Flint’s drinking water until January 2016.

Lyon and former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and members of his cabinet were formally charged with crimes — including involuntary manslaughter — in connection with the Flint water crisis.

Lyon originally stood trial in 2018, accused of failing to adequately inform the public of the contaminated drinking water. The following year, criminal charges against Lyon and seven more people were dropped as prosecutors working under a new attorney general vowed to reconduct their investigation.

Prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges against Lyon et al. did not apply to seven officials who previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor offenses. However, the Associated Press reported that they had their convictions removed from their records because they cooperated with authorities.

The New York Times reported that Snyder was released on a $20,000 personal recognizance bond. He is barred from leaving the state without permission.

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[Featured image: Rick Snyder/Genesee County Sheriff’s Office]