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Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Charged with Willful Neglect of Duty

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The Former Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, and eight former state officials have been charged with willful neglect of duty for their role in the Flint Water Crisis. The group together faces 42 counts related to the drinking water crisis more than seven years ago, with charges ranging from perjury to misconduct-in-office to involuntary manslaughter.

The incident took place in 2014 when a Snyder-appointed emergency manager was in charge of running the struggling city with a predominantly Black population. A money-saving decision was made to use the Flint River for water while the regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water was not appropriately treated, and released lead from antiquated plumbing directly into the homes of Flint residents. When the residents realized the extent of the situation, they pleaded with the Snyder administration regarding the discolored, noxious water, but no significant action was ever taken. For over a year, the local officials denied anything was wrong. But after 18 months, when a doctor reported elevated levels of lead in children, the drinking watercrisis drew national attention.

The Flint crisis shocked the nation as residents were forced to line up to receive bottled water because the water flowing from their own homes was toxic. Residents were forced to use the bottled water for drinking, bathing, and cooking. Many highlighted this as an example of racism and environmental injustice. Authorities counted at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease, including 12 deaths as a result of the contaminated water.

Some experts commented that there was not enough chlorine in the water treatment system, which led to the outbreak of the diseases that resulted in residents falling ill, losing hair, and ultimately 12 fatalities.

In his 2016 State speech, Snyder commented, ”We are working hard for you, and we are absolutely committed to taking the right steps to effectively solve this crisis. To you, the people of Flint, I say … I’m sorry and I will fix it.” The city has since switched back to Detroit’s water system, but many residents still use bottled water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning purposes. Thousands of residents have also filed civil lawsuits against the State of Michigan over the trauma and pain caused by the water crisis.

Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team of prosecutors announced a $600 million-dollar settlement for the families impacted by the water crisis, but not everyone is happywith that result. John McClain, a pastor, commented that the settlement was ”disrespectful” as it does not provide enough to the residents to cover damages.

In June of 2019, Nessel announced that the state prosecutors were dropping the criminal charges against the eight officials and launching an extensive investigation into the crisis.

Snyder is now facing two counts of willful neglect of duty and, if convicted, will receive up to a year of jail time and a $1000 fine. Other members of his administration are expected to face similar charges with similar potential punishments as well.