Michigan health director charged with involuntary manslaughter

Michigan health director charged with involuntary manslaughter

Michigan’s state health director was charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the drinking water contamination crisis in Flint.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) charged Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, both felonies, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Eden Wells, Michigan’s chief medical executive, was also charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer.

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Both men’s charges come from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint that stemmed from the city’s state-mandated switch to using water from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015.

Lyon is the highest-ranking official charged yet in connection with the water crisis. With Wednesday’s allegations, 15 current or former state or city officials have been charged.

A failure to treat the water properly also caused lead contamination in the water supply for the city of 100,000. The lead contamination, and failures by the state and federal governments to respond strongly to it, has received most of the attention from the Flint crisis.

State officials estimated that 87 people were infected in the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia that is usually found in fresh water. Twelve people died in the outbreak.

Lyon’s charge is linked to the death of Robert Skidmore in December 2015, the Free Press said. Prosecutors say Lyon should have notified the public about the outbreak to prevent the death, and he faces up to 15 years in prison.

He also faces up to five years in prison for misconduct for allegedly instructing his staff to stop an analysis that would have helped to determine the cause of the outbreak.

Wells is accused of obstructing justice for lying to a special agent and threatening to withhold funding for a study into the outbreak, a five-year charge.

She is also alleged to have lied to law enforcement about when she knew about the outbreak, a two-year charge.