Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch with involuntary manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in the Flint water crisis. A criminal charge merely is an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In addition to the involuntary manslaughter charges – which are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $7,500 fine – Schuette also charged Lyon with misconduct in office, a felony, subject to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
Michigan Department of Health Human Services Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells also has been charged with lying to a peace officer and obstruction of justice related to an alleged attempt to stop an investigation into the health crisis in Flint and later misleading investigators as to her actions.
Schuette was joined at the June 14 announcement of the charges by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Flint Water Investigation Special Prosecutor Todd Flood and Chief Investigator Andrew Arena.
With more than a dozen people now having been charged, and pre-trial hearings and other legal proceedings occurring, Schuette released the initial results of the more than year-long investigation. Included in the report is a comprehensive look at the charges made, as well as a review of the facts and evidence in the case.
Multiple Flint-area residents died of Legionnaires’ disease in the time immediately following the switch from Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD) to the Flint River. All defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter are charged in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, of Mt. Morris, Mich. Skidmore died of Legionnaires’ disease after many others had been diagnosed with the illness, yet no public outbreak notice had been issued. The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint’s water system.
As the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a position whose duties are outlined in the Michigan Constitution, Schuette’s office alleges Lyon has a duty to protect public health. The investigation has shown that Lyon allegedly received notice of a deadly Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Genesee County nearly one year before he informed the public.
After being informed about a potentially fatal health risk, Lyon allegedly deliberately failed to inform the public of a deadly Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak, which resulted in the death of Robert Skidmore. Furthermore, Lyon allegedly participated in covering up the source of Genesee County’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak by repeatedly attempting to prevent an independent researcher from looking into the cause of the outbreak.
Lyon was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter for causing the death of Robert Skidmore on Dec. 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint, Mich. when he had notice that another outbreak would occur. Schuette also alleges that between February 2015 and May 2017, Lyon committed misconduct in office, an indictable offense at common law, in violation of his duty to protect the health of the citizens of the County of Genesee, State of Michigan and to protect the public health enjoined upon him by the Michigan Public Health Code,
As the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Wells has a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of Michigan residents, according to Schuette. During the course of the investigation of the Flint Water Crisis, it is alleged that Wells attempted to withhold funding for programs designed to help the victims of the crisis, and then lied to an investigator about material facts related to the investigation.
She has been charged with obstruction of justice by “knowingly providing false testimony to a special agent and by threatening to withhold funding for the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if the partnership did not cease its investigation into the source of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Mich.”
According to the charges, after being informed by Special Counsel Todd Flood – in the presence of Special Agent Arthur Wimmer – that they were conducting a criminal investigation, Wells “did knowingly and willfully make a statement or statements to the officer that [she] knew was false or misleading regarding the following material fact or facts relating to the investigation: the date she knew of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint, and the officer was conducting a criminal investigation regarding involuntary manslaughter.
Stephen Busch served as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality District 8 water supervisor, a position which would have allowed him to order the Flint Water Treatment Plant be shut down because it was not producing safe water. In January of 2015, Busch was made aware of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, yet he allegedly represented to the public that Flint’s drinking water was safe.
Busch previously was charged with felony misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, and two misdemeanor counts for both a treatment and monitoring violation of the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act.
He now has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly causing the death of Robert Skidmore on Dec. 13, 2015, “by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint when he had notice that another outbreak would occur.”
As the chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance at the Department of Environmental Quality, Shekter-Smith had the ability to order the Flint Water Treatment Plant shut down for failure to produce safe water. She previously was charged with a felony of misconduct in office and a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty.
Now, he has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for causing the death of Robert Skidmore on Dec. 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint when he had notice that another outbreak would occur.
As director of public works for the city of Flint, Croft had the ability to mandate changes to the treatment processes at the Flint Water Treatment Plant to ensure proper disinfection was occurring, or switch back to DWSD. Mike Glasgow, a former Flint Water Treatment Plant operator, allegedly was pressured by Croft to start using the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Croft’s alleged failure to treat the water properly contributed to the bacterial outbreaks found in Flint, including the legionella in the spring of 2015.
Croft previously was charged with felony false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses. Now he faces involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Robert Skidmore on Dec. 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint when he had notice that another outbreak would occur.
As an appointed emergency manager for Flint, Earley was tasked with ensuring the health and welfare of the city, according to Schuette. During his terms as emergency manager, Earley contributed to the decisions that allegedly caused the death of Robert Skidmore by keeping the city on the water source even as it became obvious the source should be switched back to Detroit Water & Sewer.
Earley was previously charged with felony false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office and a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty. He now has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for causing the death of Robert Skidmore on Dec, 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint when he had notice that another outbreak would occur.