Conspiracy, misconduct among charges for 6 state employees, 3 ar - WNEM TV 5

Conspiracy, misconduct among charges for 6 state employees, 3 arraigned

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Corinne Miller Corinne Miller
Michael Prysby (left) sits next to Stephen Busch (right) at the Flint water plant on April 25, 2014. (Source: WNEM) Michael Prysby (left) sits next to Stephen Busch (right) at the Flint water plant on April 25, 2014. (Source: WNEM)
Michael Glasgow in March, 2016 (Source: WNEM TV5) Michael Glasgow in March, 2016 (Source: WNEM TV5)
Adam Rosenthal (Source: WNEM) Adam Rosenthal (Source: WNEM)

Six state employees have been criminally charged in connection with the Flint water crisis and now three have gone before a judge.

On July 29, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the second round of criminal charges stemming from the crisis.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services workers Nancy Peeler, Corinne Miller and Robert Scott, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees Liane Shekter-Smith; Adam Rosenthal and Patrick Cook were charged Friday morning.

"In essence, these individuals concealed the truth and they were criminally wrong to do so," Schuette said.

Schuette claims that Peeler, Director of the MDHHS Program for Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting, requested a report about the blood levels in Flint's children. But he claims that instead of releasing the report, which showed a significant spike, Peeler buried it and produced a bogus report that she and Scott prepared. That report allegedly showed no significant rise in the blood levels of Flint's children during the summer of 2014. 

Peeler's last known address shows that she lives in Midland.

Schuette also claimed the original report went to Miller, who was the then-Director of Bureau of Epidemiology and State Epidemiologist, and she told others not to act when it was required. Miller is also accused of instructing another MDHHS employee to delete emails concerning the original blood lead data report from July 28, 2015.

Miller, Peeler and Scott have been charged with one count of misconduct in office, one count of conspiracy and one count of willful neglect of duty.

Miller was arraigned on August 1.

Schuette said Peeler and Scott are still employed with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the MDHHS confirms Miller retired in mid-April.

Schuette claims Shekter-Smith, the then-Chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, held key responsibilities for ensuring clean, safe drinking water for Flint residents. Despite notice of citizen complaints about water quality and knowledge of a Legionnaires outbreak and issues with lead levels, Schuette claims Shekter-Smith, not only failed to take corrective action or notify public health officials, but also allegedly took steps to mislead and conceal evidence from health officials.

Shekter-Smith has been charged with misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty, she was arraigned on Aug. 3.

Cook is accused of being aware of problems with Flint's water, but allegedly took no corrective action. Schuette also claims he mislead the EPA regarding the necessity of using corrosion control in Flint after the switch when he allegedly forwarded information he knew to be false to the EPA.

Cook has been charged with misconduct in office, willful neglect of duty and conspiracy.

Schuette alleges Rosenthal, who worked in Shekter-Smith's section, was warned by Flint Water Treatment Plant officials they were not ready for operations. And was later warned by the EPA that high levels of lead is usually due to particulate lead, signaling a corrosion problem.

Rosenthal is accused of willfully participating in the manipulation of lead testing results and falsely reporting the 90th percentile of the results for lead water testing was below the federal action level. He's also accused of altering a July 28, 2015 report to exclude some high lead tests.

Rosenthal has been charged with misconduct in office, tampering with evidence, conspiracy-tampering with evidence and willful neglect of duty.

He was arraigned on Aug. 3 on three felony counts and one misdemeanor related to the cover up. His bond was set to $15,000 on each count.

Schuette said Shekter-Smith is no longer with the Department of Environmental Quality, but Cook and Rosenthal still work in the drinking water section of the DEQ.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Health & Human Services released the following statement.

 Based upon the filing of the charges, the DEQ and MDHHS will each be suspending two current employees without pay until further review of the charges can be conducted. Two additional state employees charged are no longer with DEQ or MDHHS. DEQ and MDHHS will continue to monitor the legal proceedings and evaluate next steps as appropriate.

“The families of Flint will not be forgotten.  We will provide the justice they deserve.  And in Michigan, the justice system is not rigged.  There is one system of justice.  The laws apply to everyone, equally, no matter who you are.  Period,” Schuette said.

Previous charges

In April Schuette filed charges against two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees, Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch. 

Both were accused of lying about whether Flint's water plan had proper corrosion controls, and faking test data about lead levels.

Both Prysby and Busch are scheduled to be back in court on August 22nd.

Flint utilities administrator Michael Glasgow was also charged in April. He has accepted a plea deal after being accused of altering and falsifying reports about the lead problem. A judge is expected to decide whether to approve the deal next Wednesday.

The Flint water investigation special prosecutor, Todd Flood, said more charges could be brought against more people involved.

"We will not stop until every single person in this case that has committed a criminal act will be brought to justice," Flood said.

All of those charged have been suspended without pay or fired.

Community reacts to charges

"I hope justice be served and come down swiftly to them because what has happened has devastated this community," said Quincy Murphy, community activist.

Murphy is glad to see charges filed against the state employees, who investigators said had a hand in delaying the water crisis from becoming known to the public.

He said the latest accusations of deception have left him extremely unsettled.

"More people were part of the cover up that we trusted to protect us, like the health department. To see employees who work for a department of that magnitude to turn around and cover it up and not tell us, have us aware. That's very unfortunate," Murphy said.

While he said he can't wait to see the six mug shots, he believes Gov. Rick Snyder should be added to the list.

"He's the one that declared a state of emergency. He's the one that appointed these people here. He's the one that gave the go ahead to switch to Detroit, I mean Flint River water," Murphy said.

While some were shocked by the charges brought out on July 29, 2016, others want to see more action.

"No, it's not progress. It's actually backward. Once they're acquitted you can't bring them up. I want someone serious with prosecuting to come along. Bill Schuette is going to do this? Don't kid yourself," said Charlie Spratling, resident.

As for Murphy, he said the latest round of charges is a step toward finding out why Michigan officials cared so little about Flint.

"I feel beyond betrayed, let down. I feel disappointment for all of us, the residents. It's very sad and I hope justice will be served," Murphy said.

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