Six State Employees Criminally Charged For Their Part In Flint Water Crisis

Credit: Jake May/The Flint Journal
Credit: Jake May/The Flint Journal

Six employees working for the state of Michigan were charged with criminal offenses early on Friday last week because, according to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette,

“They had knowledge and ability to stop the problem, but they failed.”

Among the charged criminals were Liane Shekter Smith, Adam Rosenthal, Patrick Cook, Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller and Robert Scott. Three of them worked for the Department of Environmental Quality and the other three worked for Department of Health and Human Services.

The order to charge the six was approved by Judge Nathaniel C. Perry II, and the charges against them were misconduct in office, conspiring to commit misconduct, tampering with evidence, and willful neglect of duty related to the cover-up of the water crisis in Flint.

In his press conference, Schuette also said,

“Some people failed to act, others minimized harm done and arrogantly chose to ignore data, some intentionally altered figures…and covered up significant health risks.”

The water in the city of Flint, Michigan became contaminated in April 2014, when the water source was controlled by a state-appointed emergency manager. He made the decision to cut costs and switch from treated water from Detroit to raw water from the Flint River. Officials did not require corrosion control chemicals to be added to the water, causing lead from pipes, joints, and fixtures to leak into the tap water and poison citizens.

Prosecutors allege that Nancy Peeler and Robert Scott from the Department of Health and Human Services buried an epidemiologist’s report from July 28th, 2015 that showed significant spikes in blood lead levels in Flint’s children.

Credit: Democracy Now
Credit: Democracy Now

Corinne Miller, the state’s top epidemiologist, later ordered an employee from DHHS to delete emails regarding that same report and prevented action to alert state health officials of the problem.

On the same day, at the Department of Environmental Quality, three municipal workers altered a water-testing report by excluding some crucial samples that had lead levels above the federal limit.

Though there is no proof so far of any purposeful coordination between the departments, this possible cooperation is being looked into and the investigation continues. Schuette said that arrogance and the expendable way that the people in Flint, the majority of which live in poverty, are viewed is what caused this catastrophe and gross injustice. He added,

“Their offenses vary but there is an overall theme and repeated pattern. Each of these individuals attempted to bury, or cover up, to downplay or hide information that contradicted their own narrative their story. Their story was there was nothing wrong with Flint water and it was perfectly safe to use.”

Though it has taken over two years since the mess began to first locate the problem and then attempt to make amends, these criminal charges and, hopefully, convictions are the best way to serve justice for those affected by the crisis. Holding those accountable for their reckless actions shows people in other communities that these felonies and cover-ups will not go unpunished.

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