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OPINION

Flint water crisis is a swamp for many

Tom Watkins

The people of Flint were poisoned, sickened, and some may have died because of man-made mistakes, and—according to the Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette—criminal behavior.

We owe it to the families impacted to fairly compensate them for their damages and be diligent in righting the wrong and holding people accountable who are responsible for this mess.

There remains much finger pointing at the local, state, and national level regarding responsibility for this fiasco. Governor Rick Snyder has acknowledged his responsibility and is committed to fix what he and his team let go terribly wrong.

Snyder has assigned Lt. Gov Brian Calley and his “Mr. Fix It,” Rich Baird, to work to fix the Flint disaster. Both have taken up residence near Flint to work with local officials to address the damage. Both care and have rolled up their sleeves to solve problems.

For the people harmed, the fix can’t come quick enough.

Attorney General Schuette is holding state government’s feet to the fire. To date, nine current and former government workers have been accused of breaking the law around the Flint water crisis.

Most recently, a good man, Department of Health and Human Services Director, Nick Lyon has been pulled under the Flint undertow and has become a “criminal target” for his role in this catastrophe. This is shocking for those of us that know and respect Lyon.

The media reported the health department and its boss is under investigation for its handling of a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Flint area and allegedly suppressing information about elevated lead levels in children that many suspect was tied to the water crisis in Flint.

Perhaps equally unbelievable, this threat of a criminal charge may be inaccurate or premature, evidently on the part of the investigation team in the attorney general’s office, according to MIRS News Service.

Jim Haveman, former director, Michigan Department of Community Health told me that “Nick is honest, transparent, a proven leader, hard working, focuses on the consumer and citizens of this state. What happened in Flint is awful and its being addressed. Nick is above reproach and not capable of a cover up.”

Bob Sheehan, CEO, Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards said, “Nick Lyon represents the kind of leader that is needed now, in both the pubic and private sectors, in these times of newly emerging challenges and rapid change. One who is selfless and clear headed; a visionary and a consensus builder with a keen intellect.”

And Rick Murdock executive director Michigan Association of Health Plans said, “Character and Integrity mean more in today’s world than ever before. Nick Lyon embodies these concepts and has throughout his professional career. His values are at the heart of public service and his vision for serving those most in need cannot be questioned.”

There is much innocence being capsized as this sorted tale unfolds. Good men and women—state workers—are being adversely affected by this sad saga.

There is a feeling in Lansing that good people are being scapegoated by political pariah’s willing to take a bite out of others hide to protect their backside or to further their career.

Michigan state “bureaucrats” are some the brightest, most capable, values-driven, ethical, decent, hardworking employees. But if it is proven that some neglected their responsibility or broke laws, they should be held accountable.

The victims of this man-made mess are the people of Flint that have been harmed, physically and psychologically, by their government at all levels. Our focus and support must remain with the people of Flint.

The people of Michigan must demand accountability along with truth, fairness, and justice for all.

Tom Watkins is president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.