By Doha Madani and Erin Einhorn – NBC News
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who was running the state at the time of the devastating water pollution scandal in Flint in 2014, has been charged with the legionella outbreak that killed 12 people in the city.
He faces two counts of willful negligence of duty, according to online court records, and up to one year in jail, plus a $ 1,000 fine.
“We believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against the governor,” defense attorney Brian Lennon told The Associated Press Wednesday night, adding that state prosecutors had not provided him with any details.
Requests for comment to Lennon from our sister network NBC News were not responded to.
Other members of your Administration can also be charged.
Snyder and others are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, and a press conference by Attorney General Dana Nessel and prosecutors is expected to follow.
The Snyder Administration’s decision in 2014 to switch Flint from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River led to disaster, as untreated river water led to pipe corrosion and lead contamination.
In 2017, criminal charges were brought against several state officials, including the former head of the state Department of Health, Nick Lyon, for the Legionella outbreak at the same time as the contaminated water crisis. Lyon was accused of learning of the outbreak in 2015 and of not
inform the public for another year.
Prosecutors dropped charges against eight people, including Lyon, in 2019.
Some experts have said that polluted water in the city caused the Legionella outbreak, a severe form of pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrive in warm water.
Bryant Nolden, a Genesee County commissioner who runs a historic recreation center in Flint, welcomed the news that the possible indictments would include the former governor.
“The buck stopped at Governor Snyder,” he said. “He was the one who put the people in their place who really did this. We have to see how this all plays out, but I’m very happy to hear that some people will be held accountable at the highest level.
Nolden recalled that he and his Flint neighbors were disappointed when previous rounds of accusations did not touch Snyder himself. “I was a little worried that it wouldn’t get to him,” he said.
Holding Snyder held accountable, he lamented, will not repair the damage done in Flint, including the skyrocketing number of children needing special education services, but it will improve morale among residents.
“The residents here are very tough.”, he asserted. “We have made it and we are dealing with that, but I think this will help in some small way, letting them know that justice will be served because these people will be held accountable for the mistakes they made here in this community.”
Residents of Flint, a city with a majority black population, have struggled for years to recover from the crisis as they relied on bottled water as their main source of drinking water for months and saw property values suffer.
The state agreed to a $ 600 million settlement in April for Flint residents whose health was affected., establishing a fund where residents can request compensation.