MI health chief charged with involuntary manslaughter in Flint water probe

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter which is a conviction that carries up to 15 years in prison along with a $7,500 fine.

According to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the failure of Lyon and the others to act led to the death of 85-year-old Robert Skidmore of Genesee Township, whose death certificate states that he died of "end stage congestive heart failure".

The charges not only stem from the lead-tainted water that exposed Flint residents (especially children) to potential long-term health risks, but an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease linked to the water crisis.

A court document detailing Lyon's charges says he and an unnamed "Senior Advisor to Governor Snyder" sought to rein in the scope of the state-funded Wayne State University research project in 2016.

"The families of Flint have experienced a tragic, tragic health and safety crisis for the past three years", he said. Officials had switched its water source to the Flint River, and failed to treat the problem immediately. The disease killed 12 people and sickened more than 70 in 2014 and 2015, according to MLive.

Former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Drinking Water Chief Lian Shekter-Smith and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch are also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Lyon is the highest-ranking state employee to face criminal charges for his role in the water crisis and represents the first time a Snyder cabinet member has been charged.

December 2: Researchers report that water in Flint is improving after finding no detectable levels of lead in 57 percent of homes during another round of tests.

Some experts have also linked the water to Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrive in warm water and infect the lungs.

Five people have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in MI in an investigation of Flint's water crisis.

January 2015: Detroit offers to reconnect Flint to its water system, but Flint leaders insist the water is safe. The indictment states that Lyon knew about the outbreak but failed to take action or even inform the public.

Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement Wednesday, saying Lyon and Wells "like every other person who has been charged with a crime by Bill Schuette, are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt".

The probable cause statement filed in Wells' case says the chief medical executive for the state had an agreement with investigators that they would not use her own statements as evidence against her in an interview provided she made no false statements. Lyon allegedly participated in a cover-up during efforts to prevent an independent researcher from examining the water in Flint.

Gov. Snyder has not been charged.

Mid-March. 2016: State officials testify before Congress, including Snyder and the state-appointed emergency manager who oversaw Flint when the water source was switched to the river.

Defense attorneys for the six officials spoke out against the charges.

  • Leroy Wright