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Snyder faces two counts of willful neglect of duty in Flint water crisis

Beth LeBlanc Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Former Gov. Rick Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect of duty related to the Flint crisis over lead-contaminated drinking water.  

The criminal charges, found in online court records Wednesday, are misdemeanors punishable by up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

The date of the offense is listed in court records as April 25, 2014, the day the city switched from using Detroit regional system water to the Flint River. 

Snyder's charging document was filed with 7th Circuit Court Judge David Newblatt in Flint. 

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Snyder's attorney, Brian Lennon, previously called the expected charges against the former two-term Republican governor "outrageous." On Wednesday, Lennon repeated that the criminal charges against Snyder had no evidence to support them.

"We have asked the Michigan Attorney General’s office of special counsel for a copy of or at least confirmation of the charges ahead of tomorrow’s arraignment, and she has not yet provided us with either," Lennon said in a statement. "It’s difficult for us to comment on something we have not yet seen."

News broke Tuesday that Snyder and several within his administration would be charged in relation to Flint's lead-tainted water, but Attorney General Dana Nessel's office has remained tight-lipped on the matter. Nessel, a Democrat, has scheduled a press conference for Thursday to discuss the investigation. 

Snyder, his aide, Rich Baird, and former state health director Nick Lyon have been informed they will face criminal charges related to the decision to change the city's water source, which triggered contamination of the city's drinking water. They are among up to 10 people who are set to be charged.

Online court records also show two willful neglect of duty charges against former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft, with an offense date of Oct. 1, 2013.

Charges against others expected to be arraigned were not immediately available in the online court system.

Flint's water switch was done under Snyder-appointed state emergency managers in 2014 and has been suspected to be involved in 2014-15 outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in the region that sickened more than 90 people and killed at least 12. It also caused the lead contamination of the drinking water when the river water wasn't properly treated with corrosion controls.

The crisis pushed Flint into the national spotlight that triggered congressional hearings in 2016. At the time, Democratic members of the U.S. House oversight committee demanded Snyder resign.

Snyder finished out his term and was never charged, though Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette leveled charges against several others, including emergency managers, department directors and city of Flint employees. 

Nessel's office dropped prior charges against several individuals in 2019 and restarted the investigation. The charges expected Thursday would be the first to stem from the new effort. 

A more than $640 million settlement over Flint water-related civil litigation was reached last year and awaits court approval. 

Nessel has focused on resolving the civil litigation related to the crisis while Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy have led the criminal investigation. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com