Snyder was arraigned on those charges in January of this year, following a lengthy investigation into the Flint water scandal. The former gov. pleaded not guilty to both counts.
The Michigan Legislature defines willful neglect of duty as follows:
“When any duty is or shall be enjoined by law upon any public officer, or upon any person holding any public trust or employment, every willful neglect to perform such duty, where no special provision shall have been made for the punishment of such delinquency, constitutes a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.”
Snyder’s former top aid, the former public works director and the former state health chief are among 10 people facing charges in connection to the scandal. It is reportedly the first time in Michigan’s history that any governor or former governor has been charged with crimes related to their time in office.
Snyder, a Republican, served as the governor of Michigan from 2011 to 2019. He is accused of failing to issue a state of emergency in a timely manner once discovering the unsafe lead levels present in Flint’s drinking water.
In 2014, Snyder appointed a manager to oversee the city of Flint, which was facing financial trouble. The manager decided to use water from the Flint River while a regional pipeline was under construction in an effort to save money. However, the corrosive water was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into residents’ homes.
Elevated levels of lead were reported in children less than two years later, though residents attempted to bring the discolored, unhealthy water to the government’s attention before then. Officials say there were at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease within the county, and 12 subsequent deaths connected to the crisis.
The case against Snyder is focused on three key components: witness interviews, phone records and emails.
The investigative team went through thousands of documents and searched computers, iPads and phones while working to establish a timeline. They wanted to find out what Snyder knew about the situation and when he knew it.
There are a few timelines that phone records and emails could help explain, such as: When did Snyder know the water was an issue? When did he realize that it was a public health emergency?
Some people point to the Legionnaires’ outbreak as being key in the quest for a timeline.
In January of this year, the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, a hospital and an engineering firm came to a $641 million settlement related to the scandal, with $600 million of that coming from Michigan.