On Wednesday, the director of the Health and Human Services Department, along with four others said to be connected to the Flint water crisis, were charged with involuntary manslaughter after a Legionnaires’ outbreak killed 12 in the city, including an 85-year-old man.
The city began to use water from the Flint River back in 2014. However, city officials failed to treat the water to reduce corrosion, causing lead to seep into the water system.
Michigan’s Attorney General accused Nick Lyon, 48, the top member of Governor Rick Snyder’s administration, of failing to inform the city about the disease outbreak, which officials have linked to the ongoing water crisis. Lyon has also been charged with misconduct in office, a felony punishable by up five years in prison.
“The health crisis in Flint has created a trust crisis for Michigan government, exposing a serious lack of confidence in leaders who accept responsibility and solve problems,” said state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who said his probe is moving to the trial phase and signaled that Snyder, who has apologized for his administration’s failures that led to and prolonged the crisis, may not be charged.
“We only file criminal charges when evidence of probable cause of a crime has been established. And we’re not filing charges at this time,” he said.
However, the Republican Governor has since released a statement in support of those charged, claiming each person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“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. 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. Director Lyon and Dr. Wells have been and continue to be instrumental in Flint’s recovery. They have my full faith and confidence, and will remain on duty at DHHS.”
Now, at least a dozen government officials have been charged in connection with the crisis. Five of which have been charged with involuntary manslaughter which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.