State of Michigan hires medical executive facing trial for Flint water crimes to new position

Michigan’s chief medical executive, who was charged in 2017 with crimes related to the water crisis in Flint, has been hired to fill a new position in the state’s health and human services department.

MLive.com reported on Wednesday that Dr. Eden Wells was hired to be an “advisory physician,” a classified role that will afford her protections that she currently doesn’t have as the state’s chief medical executive. She will receive an annual salary of $179,672, according to the news outlet.

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“[Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)] determined there was a need for an advisory physician to the Population Health Administration, as we have with other administrations within the department,” spokeswoman Angela Minicuci said in an email to MLive. “The position will advise the administration on public health issues such as HIV, Hepatitis C, environmental health and more given the increasing focus on these and other public health issues in Michigan. MDHHS posted the position, and Dr. Wells was chosen for the role.”

MLive notes that Wells was the only candidate for the position, for which the state began recruiting in November.

Wells is set to finish her appointment as a medical executive at the end of this year before taking on her new responsibilities, Minicuci told MLive.

Wells’s attorneys said in a statement that she “is excited for this opportunity to continue her life’s work in public health for the people of Michigan, in collaboration with her local and state public health colleagues.”

Wells was appointed to the new position just five days before Genesee County District Judge William Crawford bound her to stand trial on a slew of charges related to her job performance at MDHHS as the agency responded to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint. The outbreak stemmed from the city’s state-mandated switch to using water from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015.

According to testimony in preliminary examinations from Wells and other defendants who worked in the state government, officials were aware of the outbreaks of the disease in Genesee County, Mich. in 2014 and how they may have been related to use of Flint River water. 

But no one in MDHHS warned the public until January 2016, according to MLive.

Wells is accused of involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice and lying to a peace officer. She and Nick Lyon, director of MDHHS, have remained in their roles while facing criminal charges.