Flint water crisis: Ex-Michigan governor Rick Snyder due back in court today

Snyder faces 2 misdemeanor charges

Rick Snyder faces misdemeanor charges in connection with the Flint water crisis.

Rick Snyder faces misdemeanor charges in connection with the Flint water crisis.

The former Michigan governor pleaded not guilty to two counts of willful neglect of duty for his alleged role in the public health crisis that poisoned Flint’s drinking water.

Related: Attorneys: Ex-governor charged in wrong county over Flint

Tuesday’s hearing is a pretrial conference during which no evidence is expected to be discussed. Snyder will appear virtually.

The case against Snyder focuses on three key items:

  • Witness interviews
  • Phone records
  • Emails

Read more: A look at the evidence collected against Gov. Snyder in the Flint water crisis

Investigators reviewed thousands of documents, searched computers, iPads and phones to try to figure out a timeline. The question is: When did the governor know that there was an issue with Flint’s water? When did he realize it was a public health emergency.

“He testified under oath about a date when he says he learned or knew, or became aware, of a problem. Now the investigators are going to look at other evidence that shows that governor Snyder apparently wasn’t telling the truth,” said legal analyst Neal Rockind.

Tuesday’s hearing is to decide whether the case moves to trial or if a deal can be made. There are eight other former Michigan state leaders charged in the case.

This combo of images provided by the Genesee County, Mich., Sheriff's Office, shows the nine former state-appointed and local officials charged, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in connection with the Flint, Mich., water crisis. Top row from left: Jarrod Agen, former chief of staff to Gov. Snyder; Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager; Richard Baird, former Michigan Transformation manager; Howard Croft, former Flint Director of Public Works; Darnell Earley, former state-appointed emergency manager. Bottom row from left: Nicolas Lyon, former Health and Human Services Director; Nancy Peeler, former early childhood health section manager in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder; and Eden Wells, former Michigan Chief Medical Officer. (Genesee County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Flint water crisis

Flint was in financial trouble in 2014 when a Snyder-appointed manager who was running the city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction. The corrosive water, however, wasn’t treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst manmade environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Despite pleas from residents holding jugs of discolored, skunky water, the Snyder administration took no significant action until a doctor reported elevated lead levels in children about 18 months later.

“I’m sorry and I will fix it,” Snyder promised during his 2016 State of the State speech.

Authorities counted at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County, including 12 deaths. Some experts found there wasn’t enough chlorine in the water-treatment system to control legionella bacteria, which can trigger a severe form of pneumonia when spread through misting and cooling systems.

In August 2020, a settlement of a lawsuit filed was reached on behalf of residents of Flint who were harmed by lead-tainted water. As of November it totaled about $641 million.


About the Authors:

Nick joined the Local 4 team in February of 2015. Prior to that he spent 6 years in Sacramento covering a long list of big stories including wildfires and earthquakes. Raised in Sterling Heights, he is no stranger to the deep history and pride Detroit has to offer.

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