Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, recently filed charges against public health officials, Nick Lyon, Eden Wells, Stephen Busch, Darnell Earley, Howard Croft, and Liane Shekter-Smith in connection with the ongoing Flint water crisis. The director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, along with Busch, Earley, Croft, and Shekter-Smith, who are state and city officials, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Lyon was also charged with one felony count of misconduct in office. Eden Wells, who is currently Michigan’s chief medical executive was charged with lying to an investigator and obstruction of justice.
The Flint water crisis started in 2014. Officials, in an effort to save money, switched the source of drinking water for Flint residents from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Since then, nearly 100,000 city residents were revealed to have been drinking high levels of lead because of inadequate treatment. A state of emergency was declared with residents only using bottled water for all uses. While the lead levels returned to normal in 2017, residents still continue to use bottled water until all pipes have been replaced.
According to The Washington Post, Lyon knew of the Legionnaire’s disease by 2015 but only told the public in 2016. Documents filed in court stated that Lyon “willfully disregarded” the outbreak. Lyon later made remarks that “we can’t save everyone” and “everyone has to die of something.” Lyon alleged refused help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and blocked researchers from studying the water from the Flint River. Wells was also accused of threatening to stop funding for the community organization if it did not cease looking for the source of Legionnaires’ disease. Prosecutors claimed that because of the this continued negligence from officials, Robert Skidmore died.
Chip Chamberlain, Lyon’s attorney, disputed the charges stating that the “justice system [would] vindicate him entirely.” Also coming to Lyon’s defense is Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. He stated that all officials charged with a crime by the attorney general remain “completely committed to Flint’s recovery.”
The Boston Globe reported that if Lyon was convicted, he could face up to “15 years in prison.” Schuette said that the Flint water crisis exposed a “serious lack of confidence” in government leaders. To date, Schuette has charged “15 current or former government officials” for the Flint water crisis.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wrote a report blaming “systemic racism” that caused the water crisis. According to NPR, Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee said he supported the investigation. He went on to add that the state government “created this crisis and they must do more to help Flint’s recovery.”
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Google Earth