Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Tuesday brought felony charges against two ex-emergency managers from Flint and two former city officials for their roles in the crippling water contamination crisis that has plagued the city of Flint for the past two years.
Schuette announced charges against former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, along with ex-public officials Howard Croft, who served as the city’s public works superintendent, and Daugherty Johnson, the former utilities administrator, as part of his ongoing investigation into the city’s water crisis, The Detroit Free Press reported.
The latest charges came just one day after the attorney general also moved to criminally charge two other former City of Flint public works employees, bringing the total number of officials charged to 13. Criminal charges were previously brought against two Michigan state officials and a Flint city administrator in April, Atlanta Black Star reported.
“We are closer to the end than we are to the beginning,” Schuette told reporters of his efforts to get to the bottom of the Michigan city’s public health crisis.
Earley and Ambrose are the highest-ranking officials to be charged thus far, as the attorney general’s investigation slowly makes it way up the state’s chain of command. The two former city leaders are accused of moving forward with sourcing water from the highly contaminated Flint River in 2014, even though they knew the city’s water treatment plant wasn’t prepared to deliver clean drinking water to residents, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“So many people knew that that plant was not ready — and yet it was done,” Andrew Arena, the agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit, who now serves as Schuette’s lead investigator, said at a press conference Tuesday, Dec. 20. “That’s the thing that shocked me.”
Ambrose, Croft, Earley and Johnson were arraigned on Tuesday in a Flint courtroom, and all entered not-guilty pleas, the newspaper reported. All four men were charged with conspiracy to commit false pretenses, while Ambrose and Earley were also charged with willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office. All of the charges carry sentences of up to 20 years.
Schuette brought charges against each of the disgraced officials for failing to protect Flint residents from the health hazards caused by the lead-tainted water. Once city officials moved to switch the water supply and began drawing from the Flint River, the corrosive water ate away the protective coating on the aging water pipes and caused lead to leach into the water supply.
It’s been over two years and residents are still struggling to get their hands on clean water. The city’s unfiltered tap water is still unsafe to drink, so many families are forced to rely on bottled water for daily tasks like cooking and bathing. A glimmer of hope came last week, however, when Congress finally approved a $170 million bill dedicated to repairing the city’s water system.
“The people of Flint are not expendable,” Schuette said in a press conference Tuesday. “People who broke the law must be held accountable.”
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver expressed joy and satisfaction that those responsible for causing the devastating water crisis were finally being held accountable.
“The leaders in charge at the time could have prevented this disaster, but they didn’t,” Weaver said. “They did not protect the health and well-being of the citizens of this city and that’s wrong. They didn’t even listen when residents spoke up saying there was a problem.
“That is how we got here and everyone who had a role in allowing this tragedy to happen must face the consequences of their actions.”