Rick Snyder, the former Michigan governor who oversaw the state when a water crisis devastated the town of Flint, has been charged with two counts of willful neglect of his duties, court records show .
The charges are felony punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of up to $ 1,000.
Michigan prosecutors will release their findings on Thursday in a broad investigation into the water crisis, officials said, a long-awaited announcement that is also expected to include charges against several other officials and senior advisers to Mr Snyder .
Results will be announced by Dana Nessel of Michigan the Attorney General, Fadwa Hammoud, the state solicitor general, and Kym L. Worthy, the senior district attorney for Wayne County.
Charges had previously been filed in connection with the crisis, which began in 2014, but in June 2019 prosecutors stunned Flint by dropping all outstanding charges.
Fifteen state and local officials, including officials from the emergency services who ran the city and a member of the governor’s cabinet, had been charged by state prosecutors with crimes as serious as manslaughter. Seven had already entered into plea agreements. Eight others, including most of the top officials, were awaiting trial.
Brian Lennon, an attorney for Mr Snyder, said Wednesday evening: “We believe there is no evidence to support criminal charges against Governor Snyder.”
He added that lawyers for the former governor had requested a confirmation of charges – or a copy of them – but had not yet received them from prosecutors.
Randall Levine, a lawyer for Richard L. Baird, a former senior adviser to Mr Snyder, said on Tuesday he was informed this week that Mr Baird would be among those facing charges related to the water crisis .
“At this time, we have not been made aware of the nature of the charges, nor how they relate to his position in the administration of former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder,” said Mr. Levine. “Rich’s relationship with the Flint community has always been strong. When Flint’s water crisis hit, Governor Snyder didn’t ask him to come to Flint, but instead raised his hand and volunteered.
In 2016, Mr Snyder apologized for what had happened, but for many residents of Flint it didn’t go far enough.
“He pushed it all to the side, and he pushed people to the side,” said Floyd Bell, a Flint resident whose two small grandchildren were poisoned with lead when they were babies and still have. developmental difficulties. “If he was truly aware of what was going on, he should be held accountable.”
Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at Flint who has warned officials about lead in the beverage supply, said the prospect of new charges is a reminder that “accountability and justice are essential to health and recovery”.
“This news is a balm, but it’s not the end of the story,” she said in an email. “Healing wounds and rebuilding confidence will take decades and long term resources.”
Melissa Mays, one of the first people in Flint to bring attention to the city’s water problems, said that given the attorney general’s office remained silent for more than 18 months, she was concerned that the accusations don’t go far enough.
“In Flint, we have been living in prison for almost 7 years and are forced to pay for water that still circulates through corroded and damaged infrastructure on the streets and in our homes while those responsible walk freely,” a- she writes. in an email. “We at Flint deserve REAL justice and that means rich white politicians and agency heads are going to jail for their actions and inaction which have caused us so much damage and loss.