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Subpoena for health chief not filled out correctly

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A subpoena sent to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for records related to the employment of Director Nick Lyon contained an apparent mistake in listing a felony charge against the state’s top health official.

The subpoena listing a felony misconduct-in-office charge against Lyon had a case number that is assigned to retired state epidemiologist Corinne Miller, said Dena Altheide, director of court operations at Genesee County’s 67th District Court.

“It just sounds like they didn’t fill it out correctly,” Altheide said Wednesday.

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office wasn’t fessing up to the mistake Wednesday, remaining mum about the incident while acknowledging a letter Special Prosecutor Todd Flood sent Lyon last month saying the health director is a “target” of their Flint water contamination investigation.

Lyon’s attorney declined to comment on whether Flood told him the subpoena mistakenly listed Lyon as a defendant.

“I think this whole thing turned out to be a tempest in a tea pot,” said Larry Willey, a Grand Rapids attorney representing Lyon in Schuette’s criminal probe. “I’m not looking to pour fuel on the fire when the fire appears to be burned out.”

The Detroit News first reported Tuesday on the existence of the subpoena and a Sept. 7 letter Flood sent Lyon saying he was a “target” of the wide-ranging criminal investigation of Flint’s water crisis that has already netted charges against eight state employee and one Flint utility worker.

Miller, meanwhile, pleaded no contest last month to a misdemeanor charge of neglect of duty in office after facing felony charges for her slow response to high levels of lead in the blood of Flint children and allegedly instructing staff to delete emails in a cover-up of the blood lead report.

Flood’s probe has extended into an outbreak of the water-borne Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015 that corresponded with Flint’s use of Flint River water.

Lyon has publicly acknowledged knowing about a spike in Legionnaires’ cases in January 2015 — nearly a full calendar year before he told Gov. Rick Snyder during the fallout of a state of emergency declaration over high levels of toxic lead in Flint’s water.

Andrea Bitely, spokeswoman for Schuette, disputed any notion that the state’s chief law enforcement officer has given misleading statements in the media over the past month by saying “nobody is targeted” in the investigation, despite the letter Flood sent Lyon saying he has “become a target.”

“What the attorney general has always said is that he refuses to name a ‘target’ before investigators even begin an investigation or before they uncover evidence. That remains true, as always,” Bitely said Tuesday in an email to The News. “Obviously as more evidence is uncovered, investigators follow that evidence forward.

“A so-called target letter is used, at times, when and if evidence of interest to the prosecutors becomes available, but no prosecutor would name a ‘target’ ahead of reviewing or uncovering evidence, which is what the AG has always said.”

Willey referred all questions about the subpoena to Flood, who declined to comment Wednesday.

Flood referred questions about the subpoena to Bitely, who also declined to comment about the subpoena’s listing a non-existent felony charge against Lyon.

“We never comment on internal workings of investigations while they are still underway,” Bitely said in a Wednesday email.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

Twitter: @ChadLivengood