Criminal Justice

Emergency managers are charged in Flint water debacle

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Four more people—including two former emergency managers—have been charged in connection with the leaching of lead into the water supply in Flint, Michigan, a problem caused by a switch to corrosive Flint River water to save money.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed charges on Tuesday, report the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. In all, 13 people have been charged.

The New York Times sees the charges against former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose as “likely to renew debate over Michigan’s practice of appointing such managers as a way to shore up cities that are teetering on the edge of fiscal disaster.” Critics say appointment of emergency managers shifts control from cities overseen by Democratic politicians to Republican state office holders, while creating the risk that public health will be compromised in a bid to shore up finances.

Earley and Ambrose are charged with misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty in office, false pretenses, and conspiracy to commit false pretenses, according to a press release. All are felonies except for willful neglect of duty, a charge that contends the two managers failed to perform their duty to protect public health.

The misconduct in office charge against Earley alleges he allowed the Flint Water Treatment Plant to produce water despite knowing it wasn’t ready to use, and authorized false and misleading public statements that the water was safe to drink. The misconduct in office charge against Ambrose alleges he hindered an investigation into a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that was said to be related to the water problems.

The false pretenses charges relate to allegations that the men participated in a process to obtain bonds to fund a new regional water pipeline by claiming the money would be used to for an emergency cleanup of a lagoon. That claim qualified the city of Flint to obtain bonds despite its high debt level, according to Schuette.

Also charged with false pretenses for allegedly aiding in the bond process are former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft and the city’s former utilities director, Daugherty Johnson.

Related article:

ABA Journal: “Who’s to blame for poisoning of Flint’s water?”

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