Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder defended cabinet members currently fighting off manslaughter charges for not notifying citizens of Flint’s corroded water in time to prevent two deaths related to the crisis.
The Republican governor was referring to Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells, both of whom he says have his “full faith and confidence.” Snyder also said the two bureaucrats have been instrumental in Flint’s rehabilitation.
“The charges against them are based on unproven allegations and he believes people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Saturday about Attorney General Bill Schuette’s decision to level charges against the two officials.
Flint switched from the Detroit water system to a river to save money while under state management, which resulted in the city’s water supply being improperly treated. Some experts believe the poorly treated water led to Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia.
Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors and the AG allege Lyon waited too long to alert the public and the governor about the Legionnaires’ outbreak, resulting in the death of an 85-year-old man.
Schuette also charged in July 2016 one Flint water department employee, as well as two mid-level Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulators in April with felonies and misdemeanors for allowing people to continue drinking Flint’s lead-tainted water, The New York Times reported at the time. One of the employees is charged with tampering with government documents.
Democratic officials blasted Snyder’s willingness to defend Lyon and Wells.
“His comments erode trust in government,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, of Flint told reporters. Other critics are urging Snyder to cut ties with those under investigation.
House Minority Leader Sam Singh, meanwhile, said the investigation against the officials is serious enough to warrant their temporary absence from government service.
Others believe Snyder should not jettison Lyon and Well, and suggest he must fight back against a Republican attorney general who some suspect is using the high-profile investigation for political gain in 2018. Schuette, a Republican, is expected to run against Snyder.
“I think the governor made a very brave stand,” John Truscott, a friend of Lyon’s and stalwart Snyder supporter.
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