Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged in Flint Water Probe

Former Michigan Gov. Snyder Charged in Flint Water Probe
Ex-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder pauses as he is booed by the audience, as he speaks at Flint Northwestern High School in Flint, Mich., on May 4, 2016. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty stemming from the water scandal in the city of Flint, online court records show.

The 2014 water scandal highlighted ongoing, dangerous exposure of children and others in the city of nearly 100,000 to lead in drinking water, and the failures of officials on all levels to adequately protect local families at the time. At the time, city residents were exposed to high lead levels after officials switched to a new water source without sufficiently treating it first.

Flint switched its public water source to the Flint River from Lake Huron, to reduce costs during a financial crisis. The corrosive river water caused lead to leach from pipes, and months after the switch, city officials said they had detected fecal coliform bacteria (E.coli) in the water supply.

The contamination caused an outbreak of bacteria-caused Legionnaires’ disease, which killed 12 people, despite the city switching back to Lake Huron water the following year. Dozens more were hospitalized.

According to court records, more than 25,000 people have reported being harmed through exposure to contaminants in Flint, including lead and bacteria. Others have said they have experienced ailments such as rashes and hair loss.

Snyder, a Republican, served as governor from 2011 through 2018. The latest charges followed a new investigation into the case. In 2019, prosecutors dropped previous charges, saying a more thorough investigation would be carried out.

The date of the offense was listed as April 25, 2014—the day Flint switched water systems.

“I’m sorry and I will fix it,” Snyder promised during his 2016 State of the State speech.

The charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to The Associated Press.

It marks the first time a Michigan governor or former governor has been charged with crimes related to their time in office, according to the state archivist.

“We believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against Gov. Snyder,” defense attorney Brian Lennon said on Jan. 13, adding that state prosecutors still hadn’t provided him with any details. He had said on Jan. 12 that a criminal case would be “outrageous.”

“Any charges would be meritless. Coming from an administration that claims to be above partisan politics, it is deeply disappointing to see pure political motivation driving charging decisions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.