State analyst reaches plea deal in Flint water case

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Adam Rosenthal, a water quality analyst with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, has reached a plea deal with prosecutors in the Flint water crisis case and is expected appear in court as early as Tuesday, The Detroit News has learned.

Sources close to the investigation said Rosenthal is expected before 67th District Court Judge Jennifer Manley to enter a no contest plea to a misdemeanor charge. It wasn’t clear what the misdemeanor charge was.

Adam Rosenthal

Rosenthal was originally charged with misconduct in office, neglect of duty and tampering with evidence, which could have resulted in possible time in prison and a fine if convicted.

Attempts to reach Rosenthal’s attorney James Burdick were unsuccessful. Flood declined to comment to The News.

Rosenthal is the fourth defendant to cut a plea deal with Special Prosecutor Todd Flood and the second state official to reach an agreement. He is the first DEQ official to make a plea deal.

Rosenthal was warned by Flint Water Plant officials they were not ready for operations when the city decided to switch from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in April 2014.

Rosenthal also was warned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that high levels of lead are usually due to particulate lead, an indication of a corrosion problem. A task force appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder said in a March 2016 report that the failure to use corrosion control chemicals in the river water resulted in lead leaching from the city’s old pipelines.

In 2015, Rosenthal allegedly helped manipulate lead testing results and falsely reported they were below the federal action level of 15 parts per billion.

The state acknowledged high lead levels in the city’s children in late September 2015 and switched back in mid-October 2015 to the Detroit area water system, now called the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Lead testing this year has found that Flint’s results have consistently been below the federal action level of 15 parts per billion. But the state has maintained advisories against drinking Flint’s water until all of the city’s lead lines have been replaced.

Three others entered pleas in connection with the scandal:

■Former Flint utilities administrator Michael Glasgow pleaded guilty in May to a reduced charge of willful neglect of duty, a one-year misdemeanor. Sentencing for Glasgow was set aside as long as he cooperates with the ongoing investigation by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

■Corinne Miller, who retired as director of the state’s bureau of epidemiology earlier this year, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of neglect of duty in office in exchange for providing information to investigators.

Miller originally was charged with failing to respond properly to an early report that city children were affected by lead contamination in Flint and instructing state health employees to delete emails pertaining to the report. She was sentenced to one year of probation in March.

■In late November, former Flint utilities director Daugherty Johnson pleaded no contest to failing to give water documents to a Genesee County Health Department employee investigating a possible connection between Flint water and Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks that eventually killed 12 and sickened 79 others in the Flint area in 2014-15. The deal resulted in two felonies being conditionally dropped in exchange for his cooperation.

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