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Four Flint, Michigan Officials Charged With Felonies in Lead Poisoning Crisis

© Flickr / Petras GagilasWater in a sink
Water in a sink - Sputnik International
On Tuesday Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that two city employees and two former emergency managers for the city of Flint will face charges related to the city’s water crisis, which saw many residents exposed to water contaminated with lead and other toxins.

The charges center on city employees Daugherty Johnson, a utilities manager, and Howard Croft, a public works superintendent, as well as emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, who was in control when the city began using the Flint River for its water supply, while the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) pipeline was being constructed. 

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Both Ambrose and Earley were appointed by Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Schuette said that Earley and Ambrose are charged with willful neglect of duty in office, misconduct in office and conspiracy to commit false pretenses. They are also charged with felony false pretenses for their alleged role in a process whereby millions of dollars in bonds were used to fund Flint’s portion of the KWA, despite the city’s issues with debt.

"Earley and Ambrose engaged in a plan to execute an administrative consent order which permitted the borrowing of tens of millions of dollars,"said Schuette in a statement, "This was supposed to clean up an environmental catastrophe — a lime sludge lagoon. Money did not go to clean up. Instead the tens of millions they borrowed were (put) toward building the KWA." 

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Schuette blamed the lead poisoning issue on a state government with misplaced priorities. "This fixation has cost lives…This fixation came at the expense of protecting the health and safety of Flint… It’s all about numbers over people," he said.

Jeff Seipenko, a special agent with the Michigan State Attorney’s office, told the Detroit News that, "[Earley] knew the plant was not prepared to produce water and, nevertheless, allowed it to be provided to the public."

He added that Croft and Johnson, "put pressure on individuals at the [Flint] water treatment plant to get the plant to work, despite having been told it wasn’t ready." 

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Ambrose, who succeeded Earley, did not switch the city back to its original water source.

Johnson and Croft are both charged with conspiracy to commit false pretenses and felony false pretenses for allegedly helping Ambrose and Early in their illicit funding activities. Officials say that each charge can carry a prison term of up to 20 years and may include fines.

This follows six state employees who faced similar charges in August, bringing the total number of those facing charges in connection to the Flint water crisis to 13.

"The tragedy that we know of as the Flint water crisis did not occur by accident." Schuette said, "Flint was the casualty of arrogance, disdain, and a failure of management, an absence of accountability, and shirking responsibility…We will proceed to deliver justice and hold those accountable who broke the law."

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