Rick Snyder, the former Michigan governor who oversaw the state when a water crisis devastated the city of Flint, has been charged with two charges of willful dereliction of duty, according to court documents.
The charges are crimes punishable by up to one year in prison or a maximum fine of $ 1,000.
Michigan prosecutors will report their findings Thursday in an extensive investigation into the water crisis, officials said, a highly anticipated announcement that is also expected to include charges against several other officials and top advisers to Mr. Snyder.
The findings will be announced by Dana Nessel, Michigan Attorney General, Fadwa Hammoud, the state attorney general, and Kym L. Worthy, Wayne County's chief prosecutor.
Charges had previously been filed in connection with the crisis, which began in 2014, but in June 2019, prosecutors stunned Flint by dropping all pending charges.
Fifteen state and local officials, including emergency managers who ran the city and a member of the governor's cabinet, had been charged by prosecutors with crimes as serious as involuntary manslaughter. Seven had already entered into plea deals. Eight others, including most of the top officials, were awaiting trial.
Brian Lennon, Mr Snyder's attorney, said Wednesday evening, "We believe there is no evidence to support any criminal charges against Governor Snyder."
He added that lawyers for the former governor have requested confirmation of the charges – or a copy of them – but have not yet received it from prosecutors.
Randall Levine, an attorney for Richard L. Baird, a former top adviser to Mr. Snyder, said Tuesday that he was informed this week that Mr. Baird would be one of the people accused of the water crisis.
"At this time, we have not been made aware of what the allegations are, or how they relate to his position with former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder," said Mr. Levine. Rich's relationship with the Flint community has always been strong. When the Flint water crisis hit, he was not assigned by Governor Snyder to go to Flint, but he raised his hand and volunteered.
In 2016, Mr. Snyder offered an apology for what had happened, but for many residents of Flint it didn't go far enough.
"He pushed this whole thing aside, and he pushed people aside," said Floyd Bell, a resident of Flint whose two little grandchildren were poisoned by lead when they were babies and are still struggling with their development. "If he really knew what was going on, he should be held accountable."
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Flint pediatrician who warned officials about lead in the drink supply, said the prospect of new charges was a reminder that "accountability and justice are crucial to health and recovery."
"This news is an ointment, but it is not the end of the story," she said in an email. "Healing wounds and restoring confidence will take decades and long-term resources."
Melissa Mays, one of the first people in Flint to draw attention to the water issues in the city, said that given the silence of the attorney general's office for more than 18 months, she was worried that the indictment would go far enough.
“We in Flint have spent nearly 7 years in jail and have to pay for water that continues to be channeled through corroded and damaged infrastructure in the streets and into our homes while the responsible people were running free,” she wrote. in an email. "We in Flint deserve REAL justice and that means rich white politicians and heads of authorities are going to jail for their actions and inaction that have caused us so much damage and loss."