Victory: Six More Charged In Flint Water Crisis

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Above Photo: (Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

Six more state employees were charged with crimes today for their roles in the Flint Water Crisis because of negligence and arrogance, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said.

“Some people failed to act, others minimized harm done and arrogantly chose to ignore data, some intentionally altered figures … and covered up significant health risks,” he said at a news conference today.

The result, Schuette said, “was water was poisoned.”

Charged today were three employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; Liane Shekter Smith, Adam Rosenthal, and Patrick Cook, as well as three others from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller, Robert Scott.

The new charges brings to nine the number of people charged since Schuette began a criminal probe of the crisis, which has turned into a major public health threat.

Schuette said Peeler requested a report on blood level data for children in Flint, but the report was buried. He said Peeler and Scott produced a “bogus” report about blood lead levels They sent it to Miller, who Schuette said instructed others not to take action. He said Miller has left the department of health and human services, but Peeler and Scott are still employed.

Schuette said this put children in the “cross hairs of drinking poison.”

Schuette said Shekter Smith supervised and Rosenthal and Cook at MDEQ. He said reports that the Flint water plant was out of compliance were ignored and said Shekter Smith deliberately misled officials. Schuette said Rosenthal and Cook were tasked with ensuring Flint had safe drinking water and “they failed” and mislead health officials.

Shekter Smith was fired from MDEQ. Her attorney, Brian Morley, said today that the charges came as a surprise when he received a call from investigators this morning.

“I’m really surprised to see criminal charges,” Morley said. “I don’t see how this gets to criminal conduct. Lawsuits, I can understand.”

He said he would “be very surprised if it ever turns out that Ms. Shekter Smith did anything wrong.”

Asked during the news conference about officials covering up data, Schuette said he “can’t always ascertain the motives, but I’m going to make sure they’re held accountable.”

A state-appointed emergency financial manager was running Flint in April 2014 when the city began using the Flint River to provide its drinking water after almost 50 years of receiving water supplied by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

The switch was intended to save money but instead created a public health crisis that continues more than two years later. The more corrosive river water is blamed for leaching lead into the drinking water system, poisoning Flint residents.

MDEQ officials have admitted that they failed to require needed corrosion control chemicals in the water, which could have prevented the lead problem.

The switch to river water also is blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease that is blamed for at least 12 deaths.

In April, Schuette announced felony charges against two MDEQ officials and one City of Flint official. At that time, he promised more criminal charges would be forthcoming.

The city employee, Mike Glasgow, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and is cooperating with the investigation as other charges were dropped. The two DEQ employees, Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby, are awaiting preliminary examinations.

Schuette later brought a civil lawsuit against engineering and consulting firms that had consulted on the Flint Water Treatment Plant.

The civil lawsuit, filed in Flint in Genesee County Circuit Court, accuses engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam and environmental consultant  Veolia North America, plus related companies, of causing “the Flint Water Crisis to occur, continue and worsen.” Both companies have denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the lawsuit.