Six current and former Michigan and Flint officials—including Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon—were slapped with criminal charges Wednesday for their roles in the city’s water crisis, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has confirmed. The tainted water has been suspected to be the cause of an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease that has resulted in at least 12 deaths.
Five of the officials, including Lyon, are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, a felony that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. The other officials are former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality drinking-water chief Liane Shekter-Smith, DEQ drinking-water official Stephen Busch and former City of Flint Water Department manager Howard Croft, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Lyon is also facing a misconduct-in-office charge, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years. The state’s chief medical executive, Eden Wells, was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to the police.
As Reuters notes, the charges stem from the more than 80 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including at least 12 fatalities, that were believed to be linked to the water that was tainted after the city switched water sources to the Flint River in April 2014.
More specifically, Lyon is accused of causing the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, in December 2015 by failing to alert the public about the foreseeable outbreak of the disease. All of the other involuntary manslaughter charges are also related to Skidmore’s death.
“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 claim, the Free Press notes. “[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.”
The charging documents also claim that Lyon “willfully disregarded the deadly nature of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak,” later saying that he “can’t save everyone,” and “everyone has to die of something.”