GENESEE COUNTY — Former Gov. Rick Snyder was arraigned Jan. 14 in Genesee County 67th District Court on two misdemeanor charges of willful neglect of duty while his administration oversaw Flint in emergency management that led to the city’s lead-tainted water crisis.
The charges against Snyder, both misdemeanors, each carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a fine up to $1,000.
Charges were also brought against seven other former officials who served under his administration during the water crisis, and one current official. They are as follow:
• Jarrod Agen, former Director of Communications and Former Chief of Staff, Executive Office of Gov. Rick Snyder, charged with one count of perjury (a 15-year felony)
• Gerald Ambrose, former Flint Emergency Manager, charged with four counts of misconduct in office (five-year felonies and/or $10,000 fine)
• Richard Baird, former Transformation Manager and Senior Adviser, Executive Office of Gov. Snyder, charged with one count of perjury (15-year felony); one count of official misconduct in office (five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine); one count of obstruction of justice (five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine); and one count of extortion (20-year felony and/or $10,000 fine)
• Howard Croft, former Director of the City of Flint Department of Public Works, charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty (each a one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine)
• Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Emergency Manager, charged with three counts of misconduct in office (each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine).
• Nicolas Lyon, former Director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter (each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine); and one count of willful neglect of duty (one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine).
• Nancy Peeler, current Early Childhood Health Section Manager, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, charged with two counts of misconduct in office (each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine); and one count of willful neglect of duty (one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine)
• Eden Wells, former Chief Medical Executive, Michigan Department of Health and Human Service, charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter (each a 15-year felony and/or $7,500 fine); two counts of misconduct in office (each a five-year felony and/or $10,000 fine); and one count of willful neglect of duty (one-year misdemeanor and/or $1,000 fine)
Snyder was arraigned in a Zoom hearing from the Genesee County Jail with his attorney and waived a formal reading of the charges brought by Michigan Attorney general Dana Nessel’s office.
Snyder cannot leave the state of Michigan without court permission, he was not required to surrender his passport.
The case was assigned to 67th District Court Judge William H. Crawford II. His next appearance was set to take place Tuesday.
In a press release, Attorney Randall Levine, who is representing Baird, said the accusations against his client are baseless and appear to be politically motivated. Baird, he said, is innocent of any wrongdoing and is being “unfairly prosecuted by the State’s democratic attorney general.”
In 2017, Levine said Baird was informed by then Special Prosecutor Todd Flood he was not a target of the government’s investigation into the Flint water crisis. He appeared voluntarily and offered sworn testimony because, Levine added, he had nothing to hide.
“The people of Flint are justifiably upset and angry about what happened in Flint,” said Levine. “Their government failed them at so many levels. However, the evidence will show that Rich Baird is not responsible for what occurred to the folks in the town where he grew up. I expect that he will be vindicated.”
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said announcement of charges against Snyder and confirms there were multiple levels of wrongdoing to the community. He said the community now must work toward striking a balance of dispensing justice and restoring confidence.
The announcement of charges, Neeley said, did just that.
“The Flint community has waited nearly seven years for these steps toward justice. I will continue to advocate for our community while praying for justice and healing. Flint is strong and we shall overcome these wrongs that were inflicted upon us,” said Neeley. “I continue to be appreciative to Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team for their commitment to finding the truth and fully investigating all possible criminal activity.”
According to Neeley, progress continues to be made in Flint’s recovery efforts. The massive service line replacement project to replace household lead service lines is nearly complete. Household service lines have been excavated at more than 26,750 homes and there are fewer than 500 left to check. Lead or galvanized steel pipes were found at 9,900 of those homes and replaced.
The city also has made important progress in the last year on other critically important infrastructure projects including beginning construction of a secondary water source, renovating water reservoirs, building a new chemical feed building and improving water quality monitoring efforts.
The EPA said last month that once the secondary water line is completed, its emergency order in the city can officially be lifted. Meanwhile, the city continues to aggressively monitor water quality and testing continues to show that water quality is stable and far below federal action levels. — G.G.