State Officials Indicted for Flint Water Crisis, Including Ex-Governor

Courtesy+of+mLive+from+the+Genesee+County+Sheriff%27s+Office+

Courtesy of mLive from the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office

Chris Doyle, World/Business Editor

On January 14, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced indictments against nine individuals connected with the Flint Water Crisis. Ex-Governor Rick Snyder was included in the list of those charged. Those accused, the alleged crimes, and the penalties include: 

  • Jarrod Agen – Former Director of Communications and Former Chief of Staff, Executive Office of Gov. Rick Snyder
      • One count of perjury – a 15-year felony  
  • Gerald Ambrose – Former City of Flint Emergency Manager
      • Four counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • Richard Baird – Former Transformation Manager and Senior Adviser, Executive Office of Gov. Snyder
      • One count of perjury – a 15-year felony
      • One count of official misconduct in office – a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
      • One count of obstruction of justice – a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
      • One count of extortion – a 20-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
  • Howard Croft – Former Director of the City of Flint Department of Public Works
      • Two counts of willful neglect of duty – each a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine 
  • Darnell Earley – Former City of Flint Emergency Manager  
      • Three counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine 
  • Nicolas Lyon – Former Director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services  
      • Nine counts of involuntary manslaughter – each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine 
      • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine 
  • Nancy Peeler – Current Early Childhood Health Section Manager, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 
      • Two counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
      • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine
  • Richard Snyder – Former Governor of Michigan
      • Two counts of willful neglect of duty – each a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine
  • Eden Wells – Former Chief Medical Executive, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 
      • Nine counts of involuntary manslaughter – each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine
      • Two counts of misconduct in office – each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine
      • One count of willful neglect of duty – a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine

The accused appeared in Genesee County Court-which includes Flint in its jurisdiction-and each plead “not guilty.” Synder is the first state executive to be tried for crimes committed in office in 184, years, according to PBS News. 

In 2011, Snyder stripped authority from the duly elected city council and mayor of Flint under the authority of controversial emergency management laws in Michigan. He replaced the local government with his own appointed emergency manager-Darnell Earley-who is accused of three counts of misconduct while in office. In 2014, Earley replaced the water source in Flint from Lake Huron to the contaminated Flint River in an effort to cut spending. It was only after doctors in Flint began reporting lead poisoning in children did the Snyder Administration take notice or action, according to PBS News. In March of 2015, the Flint City Council voted to remove its water system from the river, according to CNN, but the decision was vetoed by then-emergency manager Gerald Ambrose-who was included in the January 14 indictments. It wasn’t until October of 2015 did Flint begin receiving water from Detroit, but it would take longer for the poisonous materials in the supply to drain completely from the system or for pipes to be replaced. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported that by October, 2018, only 7500 pipes were replaced. The NRDC also reported that 9000 children likely consumed water that was infected with lead. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel-who assumed the lead of the civil actions-announced a settlement of 600 million dollars to victims in 2020, according to CNN. The criminal aspects of the case were handled by a Nessel-appointed team including Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud. “When an entire city is victimized by the negligence and indifference of those in power, it deserves an uncompromising investigation that holds to account anyone who is criminally culpable,” said Hammoud at a press conference to announce the indictments. “We must remember that the Flint Water Crisis is not some relic of the past. At this very moment, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the categorical failure of public officials at all levels of government, who trampled upon their trust, and evaded accountability for far too long. We understand that our work is not done and although the criminal justice system alone cannot remedy all the suffering that every person endured, we took our part seriously. We hope others will do the same to ensure this never, ever happens again.”

Snyder and others accused are due to appear in court again on January 19.