Flint Water Crisis: Several Michigan Health Officials Charged with Manslaughter

Several Michigan health officials charged with manslaughter over the Flint water crisis.

The Michigan attorney general’s office charged the director of the state’s health department along with four other public officials with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the Flint water crisis.

The director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Nick Lyon, also faces a felony count of misconduct in office.

The Flint water crisis led to lead-tainted water that exposed thousands of young children to potential long-term health risks, the crisis has also been linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that contributed to over 10 deaths. Those cases ultimately led to charges on Wednesday for Lyon as well as the state’s chief medical executive Eden Wells, who also faces charges of obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette also charged four other public office officials, with manslaughter. Officials charged include Stephen Busch, a water supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Darnell Earley who had been appointed by the state as the emergency manager for Flint, Howard Croft, the city’s former department director of public works, and Liane Shekter-Smith, who worked as the chief of the state’s Office of Drinking Water.

Flint Water Crisis
YPSILANTI, MI/USA Jan. 27, 2016: Sign at UAW local asking for donations for the Flint water crisis. The water in Flint has high levels of lead causing a health crisis. (Editorial credit: Barbara Kalbfleisch / Shutterstock.com)

According to the Detroit Free Press, Lyon was aware of Legionnaires’ disease outbreak as soon as 2013 but, did not notify the public until a year later. Moreover, Lyon “willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.” Lyon later added, “everyone has to die of something,” according to court documents.

In a statement, Gov. Rick Snyder defended Lyon and Wells, saying he has confidence and the two will remain employed at the health department.

“Nick Lyon has been a strong leader at the Department of Health and Human Services for the past several years and remains completely committed to Flint’s recovery,” Snyder said. “Director Lyon and Dr. Eden Wells, like every other person who has been charged with a crime by Bill Schuette, are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some state employees were charged over a year ago and have been suspended from work since that time. They still have not had their day in court. That is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged.”