Another MDEQ employee pleads no contest to Flint water crisis charges

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FLINT (WJRT) (1/7/2019) - Another Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employee has pleaded no contest to charges related to the Flint water crisis.

Liane Shekter-Smith, the department's former chief of drinking water and municipal assistance, originally was charged in July 2016 with two felonies and one misdemeanor charge.

She pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing a lawful meeting, which carries a possible penalty of 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The other charges were dropped in exchange for her plea.

As part of the plea agreement with Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, Shekter-Smith must testify against other government officials charged in the Flint water cases. She likely will be a witness in the upcoming preliminary hearing for former Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and former Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft.

If she provides misleading statements or fails to cooperate with prosecutors, Flood said a guilty plea to a five-year felony charge of misconduct in office will automatically be entered on her behalf. A review to determine whether she complied with the plea agreement is scheduled for April.

Shekter-Smith and other DEQ officials are accused of failing to do their jobs and provide safe drinking water for Flint residents after the switch to pump water from the Flint River in 2014.

Fellow DEQ officials Michael Prysby and Stephen Busch both pleaded no contest on Dec. 26 to misconduct in office and tampering with water monitoring reports -- both felonies -- along with misdemeanor violations of Michigan's drinking water law.

With Shekter-Smith's plea, seven of 15 people facing criminal charges related to the water crisis have pleaded guilty or no contest. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as one at sentencing.

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