Former Michigan GOP Gov. Rick Snyder Charged With ‘Neglect Of Duty’ In Flint Water Crisis
Rick Snyder, the Michigan’s former Republican governor, was charged Wednesday with willful neglect of duty after an incident that left Flint with lead-contaminated water and a regional outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The alleged offense date is April 25, 2014, when a Snyder-appointed emergency manager used the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water was not treated properly, releasing lead from old plumbing into homes. Snyder had taken power away from the city’s mayor in order to enforce budget cuts he wanted.
This was one of the worst man-made environmental disasters in U.S. history.
The Snyder administration took no significant action until a doctor reported elevated lead levels in children about 18 months after the incident. During his 2016 State of the State speech, Snyder apologized to his people, saying “I’m sorry and I will fix it.”
Defense attorney Brian Lennon said that a criminal case against Snyder would be “outrageous.”
“We believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against Gov. Snyder,” he said Wednesday night.
No governor or former governor in Michigan’s 184-year history had been charged with crimes related to their time in office.
The disaster made Flint a national symbol of government dereliction, residents forced to line up for bottles of water and parents fearing their child will suffer from permanent damage to the brain and nervous system.
The state, Flint, a hospital and an engineering firm have agreed to a $641 million settlement with residents over the water crisis, with $600 million coming from Michigan.
A judge said she hopes to decide by Jan. 21 whether to grant preliminary approval. Other lawsuits, including one against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are pending.