A top investigator assigned to the Flint Water Crisis – which knowingly allowed dangerous levels of lead potentially causing deadly cases of Legionnaires disease – could result in criminal charges as serious as involuntary manslaughter.
As the ongoing escalations in the crisis prompt Governor Rick Snyder to propose another $195 million in aid in his annual budget proposal on Wednesday, special counsel to Michigan Attorney General Todd Flood said manslaughter charges could absolutely be pushed forward if concrete evidence can be shown proving that government officials were grossly negligent in their handling of the city’s water change and its aftermath.
“It’s not far-fetched,” Flood told reporters, pointing to similar charges against people for deaths on construction sites. He also reiterated the possibility of charges for misconduct in office.
Flood said it is possible no crimes were committed — instead just “honest mistakes” — unless authorities breached their duty in a “grossly negligent way.” Another factor is what officials did or failed to do after their mistakes.
“If I knew something bad was going on … and I just want to turn my blind eye, that could be a problem,” said Flood, a former Wayne County assistant prosecutor who spoke at a news conference with the Republican attorney general and investigators.
Flint has been under a state of emergency since December because of lead-tainted water, despite state workers in Flint receiving bottled water and notifications of contamination in January 2015.
Outside experts have suggested a tangible link between the Crisis and a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Genesee County, which has resulted in at least 87 documented cases and 9 deaths.
US regulators say Michigan officials ignored federal advice to treat Flint water for corrosion-causing elements last year, and then additionally delayed notifying the public for months about the ensuing health risks.