In Flint, Michigan, six more state employees are facing criminal charges in connection to the lead poisoning of Flint’s water. The six work for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. They are accused of having tried to cover up the problem of lead contamination in Flint’s water once state officials became aware of it.

All six accused, including three staff members of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and three from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, were charged with felonies, including misconduct in office and willful neglect in office.

Among those charged on Friday is Liane Shekter Smith, who served as chief of the Department of Environmental Quality’s division overseeing the change in Flint’s water source in 2014 that led to the contamination.  Ms. Shekter Smith was fired from the DEQ in February. Two other DEQ employees, Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook, were charged.

Also charged is Robert Scott, a data manager for the state’s lead-poisoning-prevention program, who looked into children’s elevated blood lead tests and concluded that “water was not a major factor,” a state investigation found and published in a report in March.

Mr. Scott, as well as Nancy Peeler, another manager for the lead-poisoning-prevention program who concluded there was nothing wrong with children’s lead levels in Flint, and a third employee, Corinne Miller, are charged with misconduct and conspiracy.

Prosecutors allege employees Nancy Peeler and Robert Scott “buried” an epidemiologist’s July 28, 2015, report showing a significant year-over-year spike in blood lead levels in Flint children.  Corrine Miller, the state’s top epidemiologist, later ordered a DHHS employee to delete emails about that July 28 report and prevented action to alert top state health officials and the public.

The announcement brings the total of those charged in the Flint water crisis to nine.  Earlier this year, Mike Glasgow, a supervisor at Flint’s water plant, was charged with tampering with evidence and willful neglect of office.  Prosecutors alleged he meddled with water tests so the results showed less lead than was actually present.  Stephen Busch and Mike Prysby — a district supervisor and a district engineer respectively in the state office — face multiple counts of official misconduct. Prysby also faces charges of conspiracy to tamper with evidence, tampering with evidence and engaging in treatment violation.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette also accused the individuals charged with being arrogant in “mucking up” information and covering up data that would have shown dangerously high lead contamination in Flint.  “It’s part arrogance. It’s part viewing people in Flint as expendable,” Mr. Schuette said.

“Their offenses vary but there is an overall theme and repeated pattern,” Schuette said. “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.”  Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said she appreciated the move to hold people accountable.

 

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