Michigan’s Attorney General has filed criminal charges against six more city officials in the Flint water crisis, some of the most serious among them being conspiracy to knowingly withhold information from the public about the severity of the contamination. This brings the number of people charged so far to nine.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, the man tasked with investigating how an entire city’s drinking water could have been knowingly exposed to life-threatening levels of lead, filed the charges this morning, reports The Detroit News. Those charged are both current and former officials, including Liane Shekter-Smith, the former head of Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She, along with two other former employees of the Department of Environmental Quality, is charged with willful neglect of duty; her colleagues Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook are both charged with conspiracy, according to CNN. So far, Governor Rick Snyder has evaded charges.
Schuette has been investigating the internal machinations of how Flint’s water crisis developed and was then covered up beginning in 2014. At a press conference announcing the charges, he said that the alleged perpetrators’ “offenses vary, but there’s an overall theme and repeated pattern. Each of these individuals attempted to bury or to cover up, to downplay or to hide information that conflicted with their own narrative, and their story. Their narrative and their story was that there’s nothing wrong with Flint water.”
Residents of Flint complained for over a year and a half about the poisoned water before the issue was acknowledged—even while doctors continually tested alarming levels of lead in the blood of children living in the area.