The Michigan health chief, Nick Lyon, just became the highest-ranking state official to be charged in connection with his role in the Flint water crisis. The city’s water was contaminated with lead, which captured most of the related global news attention during the past two years. However, an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease was also linked to the Flint water crisis, and it claimed the lives of at least 12 local area residents.
Charges Against Michigan Health Chief
Lyon, who is the Michigan Department of Health and Services director, was charged this morning with two felonies by the Michigan attorney general’s office. The first charge, involuntary manslaughter, carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and fines. Lyon also faces a misconduct in office charge.
Lyon is accused of knowing about the Legionnaire’s disease that accompanied the Flint water crisis for a year before he finally informed the public about the danger involved with drinking, cooking with and bathing in the local water. Charging documents reviewed by members of the press also paint a callous picture of Lyon. The Michigan health chief reportedly said.
“Everyone has to die of something… [we] can’t save everyone.”
Additionally, Lyon is believed to have taken steps to prevent scientists from properly studying the Legionnaire’s outbreak, and he turned down the CDC when they offered assistance early on with identifying and dealing with the problem. All of this has been linked by the Michigan attorney general’s office to the death of 85-year-old Legionnaire’s patient Robert Skidmore.
Michigan Chief Medical Executive Also Faces Charges
Lyon wasn’t the only Michigan official to be charged today as a result of the Flint water crisis. Chief medical executive Eden Wells now faces charges of lying to a police officer and obstruction of justice. Wells has been accused of making threats to cut funding to the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if they pushed forward with research into the origins of the Legionnaire’s outbreak.
What’s Next for Michigan and the Flint Water Crisis?
To date, 11 local and state officials have racked up more than 50 combined criminal charges. Numerous outside companies that were involved in the Flint water crisis are also facing civil charges. The Michigan attorney general’s office has made it clear that they’re still investigating the situation, and many more people could end up being charged.
Todd Flood, who once served as the Wayne County prosecutor, said that “We’re not targeting any person or people, but nobody is off limits, either.” This seems to speak directly to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who at least one congressman believes should face criminal charges for his role in the Flint water crisis. The New York Daily News reports that Internal emails indicate that high-ranking officials in Snyder’s administration knew about the increase in Legionnaires’ disease a while before he reported the increase in Jan 2016.
UPDATE: MLive is reporting that The Michigan Attorney General has charged four more state officials with involuntary manslaughter in the Flint water crisis case, bringing the total up to five. The latest announcement includes charges being brought against the controversial former Flint emergency manager, Darnell Early. Any further updates today from Michigan about the Flint water crisis and the associated felony involuntary manslaughter charges will be posted as they occur.
[Featured Image by Carlos Osorio/AP Images]