Current, ex-health officials arraigned in Flint cases

Jim Lynch, and Jennifer Chambers

One former and two current state health officials – each facing criminal charges from the Flint water crisis investigation – appeared Monday in court for arraignment.

Within two hours, an attorney representing one of the defendant’s described the charges brought against her client as a case of political grandstanding by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

Corinne Miller, former director of Michigan’s Bureau of Epidemiology, faces charges that include misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty. Her handling of a July 28, 2015 report that identified problematic lead levels in Flint children has been called into question by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

Investigators announced criminal charges against six current and former Michigan officials on Friday. They come on the heels of April’s announcement of charges against two state workers and one Flint employee. All nine cases are tied to the lead contamination of Flinton’s drinking water, now at 27 months and counting.

During her Monday morning appearance at 67th District Court in Genesee County, Miller did not enter a plea – as is the custom in felony cases. She was released by Judge Nathaniel Perry III on a $15,000 personal recognizance bond.

State investigators argue that Miller ordered a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services employee to take no action on the lead report. A probable cause hearing in her case has been set for Aug. 8 at 8:30 a.m.

Current state Health and Human Services employees Robert Scott and Nancy Peeler appeared Monday afternoon in Perry’s court. Like Miller, both are accused of failing to take appropriate action based on the findings of the July 2015 lead report.

“Instead of releasing the report that indicated a significant problem, (Peeler) buried it and produced a bogus report that she and... Scott prepared,” Schuette said during a Friday press conference.

But Scott’s attorney, Mary Chartier, said Schuette is targeting low-level state workers in an attempt to bolster his political profile.

“Mr. Scott is innocent,” Chartier said. “He has dedicated years of his life to working help children around this state. ... He’s confident a jury will see through what is occurring and will vindicate him in the long run. ...

“If the attorney general is thinking he will scare (defendants) into some sort of plea, he is wrong.”

Schuette, who spoke at last month’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, is widely considered to be eyeing a run for governor.

“Anyone who watched the RNC saw this as an extremely public speech for the AG to make his run for governor and then try to move beyond. ... The problem is he’s dragging an innocent man through the mud and through the court system in order to prove himself.”

A spokesperson for Schuette’s office could not be reached Monday.

Both Scott and Peeler are scheduled for a probable cause conference on Aug. 9 at 8:30 a.m..

JLynch@detroitnews.com

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