Michigan AG Brings New Charges Over Flint Water

          FLINT, Mich. — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Friday that 18 criminal charges — 12 felonies and 6 misdemeanors — have been filed against four current and two former workers from two state departments following his investigation into Flint’s tainted-water crisis.
     The charges are in response to actions taken by the workers who withheld vital information that delayed discovery and treatment of the lead-contaminated water system, according to Schuette.
     “They made a bad situation worse,” he said.
     Liane Shekter-Smith, then chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, is accused of taking steps to mislead health officials despite several complaints from citizens about foul water and her knowledge of a Legionnaires outbreak in the area. Sheckter-Smith is charged with one felony count of misconduct in office and one misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty.
          Adam Rosenthal, still currently with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and a former co-worker of Shekter-Smith, is accused of willfully manipulated lead testing results after Flint Water Treatment Plant officials said they were not ready for the water switch and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned him of a corrosion problem after high levels of particulate lead were detected in samples.
     Rosenthal is charged with three felonies, including tampering with evidence and misconduct in office.
     “I don’t understand the lack of compassion,” special Flint water prosecutor Todd Flood said at the press conference. “They manipulated these reports.”
     Patrick Cook, the official responsible for lead and copper monitoring, is accused of knowingly sending the EPA false information when they inquired about corrosion control for the water system. Cook is charged with two felonies and one misdemeanor, including conspiracy and misconduct in office.
     Three workers from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services were charged as well.
     Nancy Peeler and Robert Scott are accused of burying a crucial internal report from July 2015 that signaled higher lead levels in the blood of Flint children in the summer of 2014. Peeler and Scott are suspected of creating a second report that falsely stated there was no elevation of lead levels.
     It was also discovered Shekter-Smith was in contact with the Department of Human Services the day the first report was created, prosecutors say. Peeler and Scott are charged with two felonies and one misdemeanor each, including conspiracy and misconduct in office.
     Corrine Miller, former director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and State Epidemiologist is suspected of having seen the first report that noted the higher lead levels but told co-workers to refrain from acknowledging it. Miller is also accused of deleting emails that contained information from the original blood level report. She is charged with two felony counts of misconduct in office and conspiracy as well as a misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty.
     When asked if Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s office was cooperating with the investigation, Flood said they had a “great, constructive dialog” after stories that suggested they were impeding efforts.
     Andy Arenas, former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit offices and now Chief Investigator on the crisis said that when it concludes it will be the “largest criminal investigation in Michigan history.”
     Schuette, a rumored candidate for governor when Snyder’s term expires, said the investigation is ongoing and further charges could be filed.
     “We’re going up the chain,” he said. “Where the truth takes us. No one is off limits.”
     Schuette’s announcement comes over three months after he brought charges against three other state employees. In the interim, Schuette also filed a complaint against three corporate consultants, Veolia; Lockwood, Andrews & Newman; and that company’s subcontractor, Leo A. Daly Co.
     The three individuals charged in April are Flint utilities administrator Mike Glasgow and Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
     Flint’s water problems stem from its water-supply switch in April 2014, as commanded by the city’s emergency manager.
     While Flint had historically bought Lake Huron water from Detroit, an emergency manager for Flint, appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, had the city start tapping into the polluted Flint River as a cost-cutting measure.
     State officials failed to apply corrosion-control measures first, however, which caused Flint’s aging pipes to leach lead into the water. Thousands were sickened before Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency.
     Though the city is back on Detroit’s water system, Flint citizens remain under orders to use a filter because of lead that remains in the system.

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