Three state and local officials in MI were criminally charged Wednesday in an investigation into unsafe lead levels in the city of Flint’s drinking water.
The first criminal charges were issued against Mike Glasgow, utilities administrator at the city of Flint, Mike Prysby, water engineer at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Stephen Busch, water supervisor at the same department.
Busch, 40, and Prysby, 53, were charged with five and six counts, respectively, including misconduct in office, tampering with evidence and violation of the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, Schuette said.
The charges are the first announced as a result of Schuette’s investigation into the crisis, which is being conducted by Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, Chief Investigator Andy Arena, and Deputy Chief Investigator Ellis Stafford. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton is also working with Schuette on the investigation and joined Schuette in Flint for Wednesday’s announcement.
A task force appointed by Snyder to investigate the water-contamination crisis in Flint issued a report last month that largely blamed state officials in what it called “a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction and environmental injustice”. Criminal charges, the governor said, have taken the saga to a “whole new level”.
Glasgow, who spent much of his career at Flint’s water plant, said he felt at the time that he didn’t have the authority to make changes.
Snyder says he’s cooperating with the investigations and he hopes that will help restore trust in his office.
Despite the charges, Flint residents are still calling on the attorney general for more government officials to be held responsible.
The report also said Snyder and his administration failed to act even after “suggestions to do so by senior staff members in the Governor’s office”.
“So many things wentso terribly wrong, and tragically wrong, inFlint”, Schuette told reporters. A federal state of emergency has been declared in Flint related to the city’s water becoming contaminated. One of the counts included tampering with evidence, and prosecutors allege Busch and Prysby knowingly and intentionally altered MDEQ’s lead and copper report. Busch cautioned that difficulty of treating the Flint River water could result in carcinogen exposure for residents – something that happened promptly after the switch, when treatment workers overdosed the water with a disinfectant.
Responding to a question in relation to the charges against Glasgow a state official said that following instructions was not a defense for his actions, citing the Nuremburg war crimes trials of Nazi war criminals as precedent. The move is considered temporary while the city waits to connect to a new regional water system. Poisoning a community. They failed in their responsibilities to protect the health and safety of families of Flint.
“I made it really clear Mike Glasgow was the only person who was helping us from the city”, she said.
Prysby faces an additional charge of misconduct in office for allegedly authorizing a permit on April 4, 2014 to the Flint Water Treatment Plant knowing the Flint Water Treatment Plant was deficient in its ability to provide clean and safe drinking water.
Two years ago, Flint Michigan switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River, just to save a buck on water bills. “So we start today, we start today with charges, and we will continue to go through every single door”. “That I canguarantee.” He refused to name anymore suspectsin his investigation but said, “Nobody is off limits”. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, if you break the law there will be consequences”.
It was Glasgow who left Walters a panicked voice message the night her results came back, warning her, in her words, “Please don’t drink your water”. Specifically, these two state employees were brought under felony charges: two counts of office misconduct; one, tampering with evidence; and one, conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
In addition, the complaint said the city “actively” discriminated against ordinary citizens and showed “preferential treatment” toward certain state employees, “who were specifically aware of the degradation of water quality” and were provided with safe, potable drinking water alternatives “not available to the general public”.