While Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder remains comfortably ensconced in the governor’s mansion, Mich. Attorney General Bill Schuette charged two more state health officials for misconduct related to the poisoning of Flint, Mich.’s watere supply, adding to the list of lower-level officials who’ve been held accountable for their actions while top decision makers go free.
Now, Nick Lyon, the director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, whose office was tasked with formulating a response to an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed 12 people in Flint in 2014 and 2015, is being charged with involuntary manslaughter for his alleged role in those deaths.
Specifically, Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public to the presence of Legionnaires’-causing bacteria in the water. He knew about the crisis in January 2015, but didn’t alert the public until a year later. Lyon had previously told state lawmakers that his team wanted to “solve the problem” of the Legionnaires outbreak before they raised it with senior officials in the Snyder administration. The investigation, he said, “wasn’t one that was easily solved.”
Here’s the Detroit Free Press:
Lyon, 49, of Marshall is accused of causing the death of Robert Skidmore on Dec. 13, 2015 by failing to alert the public about a foreseeable outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. It’s a 15-year felony.
“Defendant Lyon was aware of Genesee County’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at least by Jan. 28, 2015 and did not notify the public until a year later,” the charging documents allege.
Lyon “exhibited gross negligence when he failed to alert the public about the deadly outbreak and by taking steps to suppress information illustrating obvious and apparent harms that were likely to result in serious injury.“
According to the charging documents, Lyon “willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak,” later saying he “can’t save everyone,” and “everyone has to die of something.”
So far, a handful of city officials, as well as two state-appointed emergency managers who oversaw the city water authority’s switch from the Detroit Water System to using water from the Flint River, have been charged with conspiracy and false pretenses.
The state’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eden Wells, has also been charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer. Wells allegedly treated her job as a part-time obligation as the crisis unfolded, the Detroit Free Press reported, working another position as a residency program supervisor at UMich.
Another former department of health and human services official escaped jail time after pleading guilty to a charge of neglect. Instead, a judge handed down one year’s probation and community service. He also asked her to write a letter apologizing to the citizens of Flint.
Her charge? She pleaded no contest to neglect for withholding information about the Legionnaires’ outbreak that unfolded alongside the lead water crisis. Both crises emerged after the city switched its water supply over to the Flint River in April 2014. In 2015, Flint declared a state of emergency after finding that lead from the aging pipes had been seeping into the water due to the corrosive nature of the current.