Accused of falsifying reports and rerouting the City of Flint’s drinking water with the knowledge that the treatment plant was not ready for use, four more officials face criminal charges for their roles in the Flint water crisis. Two former emergency managers were charged Tuesday with committing conspiracy, misconduct, neglect, and false pretenses, while Flint’s former Utilities Director and Director of the Department of Public Works have both been charged with conspiracy and false pretenses.
“All too prevalent in this Flint Water investigation was a priority on balance sheets and finances rather than health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” stated Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. “The crisis in Flint was a casualty of arrogance, disdain and a failure of management. An absence of accountability. We will proceed to deliver justice and hold those accountable who broke the law.”
Serving as Flint’s emergency manager from September 2013 until January 2015, Darrell Earley allegedly acquired the money to reroute Flint’s drinking water by falsely claiming that the bonds were required to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond. Instead, the bonds were intended to pay for the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) Pipeline that transported water from the Flint Water Treatment Plant.
According to his criminal complaint, Earley authorized false and misleading public statements about the safety of the water even though he knew the treatment plant began operating before it was ready for use. After Earley switched Flint’s water supply in order to save some money, state officials failed to use anti-corrosives to treat the water, which caused lead from the pipes to contaminate the water. Failing to intervene for nearly a year, the EPA prolonged the disaster by delaying enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).
Appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Gerald Ambrose replaced Earley as Flint’s emergency manager from January 2015 to April 2015. Accused of participating in the construction of the KWA pipeline under false pretenses, Ambrose also allegedly obstructed and hindered a healthcare investigation conducted by the Genesee County Health Department regarding the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.
Both Earley and Ambrose were recently charged with false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, misconduct in office, and willful neglect of duty in office. If convicted, the former emergency managers each face up to 46 years in prison.
On Tuesday, former Director of the Department of Public Works Howard Croft and Utilities Director Daugherty Johnson were also charged with false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses after allegedly aiding and abetting Earley and Ambrose’s scheme to construct the KWA pipeline with government bonds under false pretenses while actively discouraging a return to Detroit’s cleaner water supply. If convicted, Croft and Johnson each face a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
At least 13 former and current state and local officials face criminal charges for their participation in the Flint water crisis. Besides the four officials charged on Tuesday, two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) employees, a City of Flint employee, and two former and four current employees from two state departments also face criminal charges.