On Tuesday a criminal investigation of Flint’s lead-contaminated water led to Michigan’s attorney general announcing charges against four former key officials at City Hall. Those individuals are accused of keeping residents on a contaminated system that caused the crisis.
In 2014-15, Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose were state-appointed emergency managers in Flint, when the city was using the Flint River as a source of drinking water. Ambrose also served earlier as a financial adviser to the troubled town.
They were charged with four crimes which include conspiracy and misconduct in office. Howard Croft, Flint’s former public works director, and Daugherty Johnson, the former utilities director, were charged with conspiracy and false pretenses.
According to WRAL News, attorney General Bill Schuette said that both Earley and Ambrose committed Flint to $85 million in bonds to join a new regional water pipeline to Lake Huron. However they were simultaneously using a city water plant that was not equipped to properly treat the river water before it went to roughly 100,000 residents.
WRAL News says Schuette explained that the two men claimed that the debt-burdened city needed to sell bonds to clean up a lagoon, but the money went as the city’s share to Karegnondi Water Authority to build the pipeline, which still is under construction.
The lead-contamination of Flint’s water system started because water from the river wasn’t treated for corrosion for 18 months, from April 2014 to October 2015. The water ate away at a protective coating inside old pipes and fixtures, releasing lead.
Not-guilty pleas were entered for Ambrose, Croft and Johnson. However, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said the charges highlighted the problem of having state-appointed emergency managers with sweeping powers.
The latest charges brings the number of people who have been charged in the investigation of Flint water to 13. The other nine are eight current or former state employees and a water plant employee.
Former FBI agent and lead investigator, Andy Arena says that “The investigation has continued to go up and go out. … We are not at the end.” However tests show Flint’s water quality is improving, although residents are urged to only drink tap water if it’s first run through a filter.
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