The investigation into potential criminal wrongdoing in the Flint water crisis advanced Wednesday as Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced involuntary manslaughter charges against Nick Lyon, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services Director and four others.
Lyon is a member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s cabinet.
Involuntary manslaughter charges were also brought against former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, Department of Environmental Quality Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch.
The charges were announced today and are based on an “alleged failure to act” by the defendants in the water crisis according to a press release from Schuette’s office.
Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and / or $7,500 fine.
The charges relate specifically to the death of Robert Skidmore from Legionnaires’ Disease after others had contracted the disease yet no public notice of the outbreak was issued.
Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells was charged with lying to a peace officer and obstruction of justice. The charges allege that Wells attempted “to stop an investigation into the health crisis in Flint” and mislead investigators according to the attorney general’s release.
Concerning Lyon, Schuette’s Flint investigative team alleges that he “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.”
Schuette announced his investigation in January of 2016 to determine if any laws were violated related to Flint’s water crisis.
In the 18 months prior to today’s indictments 48 criminal charges, 35 felonies, 13 misdemeanors and 2 civil suits have been brought as a result of Schuette’s investigation.
The civil cases are against Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews and Newman. Both companies were providing water engineering services to Flint and the suit alleges that they were accountable for professional negligence, and in Veolia’s case, fraud, “which caused Flint’s lead poisoning problem to continue and worsen, contributing to an ongoing public nuisance.”
In announcing the suits against the two companies Schuette said their, “… dangerous recommendations made a bad situation worse.”
Both companies have denied any wrongdoing.
Wayne State University professor Noah Hall is the lead attorney on Schuette’s Flint investigative team for the civil charges.
Asked by Great Lakes Now if there was a deadline for the investigation to end Schuette spokesperson Megan Hawthorne said the investigation does not have a deadline.
The U.S. Justice Department launched its own investigation into the Flint water crisis in January of 2016.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan did not respond to a Great Lakes Now inquiry for a status update of their investigation.