FLINT, Mich. (CN) – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, flanked by fellow prosecutors, brought more criminal charges Tuesday against state and local officials involved in the Flint water crisis that has left the city water system poisoned with lead for the past two and a half years.
“The people of Flint are not expendable,” Schuette said at a Tuesday press conference. “A fixation on balance sheets caused this.”
The four people charged include two former emergency managers appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder – Darnell Earley and the man who replaced him, Gerald Ambrose.
Both face multiple 20-year felony counts for false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses, as well as misconduct in office and a misdemeanor charge of willful neglect of duty in office.
The charges stem from financial maneuvers allegedly made by Earley and Ambrose to borrow millions of dollars to continue construction of the Karegnondi Water Authority, or KWA, pipeline.
The city of Flint was banned by state law from obtaining the loans conventionally since it was in receivership and $13 million in debt with no credit rating.
Earley and Ambrose allegedly used a clause in the Home Rule City Act to gain funds through an emergency bond intended for catastrophic cases of fire, flood or other calamity. The clean-up of a lime sludge lagoon, a situation not usually classified as an emergency, was used as the reason.
As part of the deal to get the money, it was mandated the Flint Water Treatment Plant would be in operational order by April 2014. When it was clear the plant would not be able to produce clean water, warnings were ignored and the city’s water source was switched from the Detroit Water Department to the Flint River valves.
The two others charged Tuesday are Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson, former city workers who allegedly helped Earley and Ambrose with the scheme. Croft was Flint’s director of public works and Johnson worked as director of utilities for the Department of Public Works. Both face 20-year felony charges for false pretenses.
“Some people won’t have a Merry Christmas.” Chief Investigator Andy Arenas said at Tuesday’s press conference. Also present were Special Prosecutor Todd Flood and Genesee County Prosecutor David Heyboer.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., an outspoken critic of the ongoing crisis, applauded the new charges in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Justice for Flint families is important and I support ongoing investigations, led by the facts, which seek to hold those who caused this crisis responsible,” Kildee said. Today’s criminal charges, including against two of Governor Snyder’s state-appointed emergency managers, is an indictment not only of their decisions, but an indictment against the administration’s failed emergency manager law that contributed to this crisis.”
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver was also pleased with AG Schuette’s efforts.
“I’m glad more and more people are being held accountable for this man-made water disaster. The people of Flint need and deserve justice for what happened here and I appreciate the work Attorney General Schuette, Prosecutor David Leyton and the entire team is doing to bring justice to Flint,” Weaver said in a statement emailed to reporters.
She added, “The leaders in charge at the time could have prevented this disaster, but they didn’t. They did not protect the health and well-being of the citizens of this city and that’s wrong. They didn’t even listen when residents spoke up saying there was a problem. That is how we got here and everyone who had a role in allowing this tragedy to happen must face the consequences of their actions.”
As of Tuesday, Schuette has filed 43 criminal charges against 13 current and former state and local workers since the start of the Flint investigation.