Flint, Mich., still doesn’t have clean water and as the fallout and repercussions of the scandal continue, on Monday, a judge ordered Nick Lyon, the director of Michigan’s Health and Human Services Department, to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter relating to the 2015 deaths of two men from Legionnaires Disease.
According to the Associated Press, Lyon is charged with failing to give a timely alert about the outbreak of the potentially deadly disease, thus allegedly causing the deaths that, according to District Court Judge David Goggins, may have been prevented.
“The victims’ deaths, that is Robert Skidmore and John Snyder, their deaths were caused by this neglect of the defendant,” Goggins read from his opinion, according to NPR, “in [Nick Lyon’s] failure to act appropriately with regarding to disseminating notices to the public.”
Lyon is also facing charges of misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty in the case.
It took a full year for Lyon and other state department officials to issue a public advisory about the outbreak. NPR notes:
Lyon and other state department officials were aware of a deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreak in Genesee County in January 2015. But the department did not issue a public advisory about the outbreak until January 2016. The department did advise doctors and medical institutions in 2015. Between 2014 and 2015, at least a dozen people died from Legionnaires Disease in Genesee County, and dozens more were sickened. Evidence connecting the Legionella bacteria outbreak to Flint’s ill-fated drinking water switch in 2014 is disputed.
“We’re not looking at today as a win or a loss. We’re looking at today as the first step and the next step for justice for the moms, dads and kids of Flint,” Andrea Bitely, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Bill Schuette said, according to the AP.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver called the motion a “step on the road to recovery.”
“The people of Flint have been traumatized by the actions, or lack of actions, by State officials,” Weaver said in a written statement, NPR notes. “This is a good step on the road to recovery and healing for the people of Flint. I hope that the State continues to be held accountable for the State’s decisions.”
However, Lyon denies any wrongdoing in the case, with his attorneys arguing, again, that there is too much speculation surrounding the exact cause of the outbreak of Legionnaires’, and that there was not enough solid evidence to share the information with the population earlier than it was.
“It’s a long way from over,” Lyon told the AP.