Flint water investigation: Former emergency managers face charges

4 more people charged in Flint water crisis

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FLINT, Mich.. – Former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose are among four new people who face criminal charges in connection to the city's contaminated drinking water. 

Earley served as Flint's state-appointed emergency manager when the city switched its water source to the Flint River in April 2014. Ambrose became the city's emergency manager after Earley left to oversee the Detroit Public Schools as the district's emergency manager. Both were appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder. 

Former city employees Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson also face charges. That brings the total number of people charged in the Flint water crisis to 13. 

Earley and Ambrose face false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office charges. These are 20-year felonies.

Croft and Johnson are charged with  false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses. 

Attorney General Bill Schuette and his investigative team announced these charges Tuesday morning. Schuette said Earley "conspired with Ambrose, Croft and Johnson to enter into a contract based upon false pretenses" that "bound the City of Flint to utilize the Flint River as its drinking water source knowing that the Flint Water Treatment Plant was unable to produce safe water.”

The investigation included conferences with law enforcement officers, interviews with approximately 60 witnesses and reviews of thousands of pages of emails and other documents, the attorney general said. 

According to the warrant request, Earley and Ambrose failed to reconnect to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department after being advised to make the switch, which “prolonged exposure to lead and Legionella bacteria.

Ambrose also allegedly obstructed and hindered a healthcare investigation conducted by the Genesee County Health Department.

Earley testified before Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform earlier this year. He said he was overwhelmed by challenges facing the impoverished city and relied on experts from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to advise him.

Earley told the committee that he and other Flint leaders "were all totally dependent" on analysis and expertise provided by state and federal officials, Earley testified, adding that "it would have been unreasonable ... to reject their guidance and attempt to make independent rulings on a highly sophisticated and scientific subject matter." Earley told Congress “the emergency manager obviously is the person responsible for making sure that those things get done.”

Gov. Snyder declared the city of Flint a “local government financial emergency” in November of 2011. The city had a $25.7 million deficit. Earley was the emergency manager from October of 2013 until January of 2015. Ambrose served from January 2015 until the end of April that same year.

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About the Authors:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.