FLINT (WJRT) - (04/20/16) - Charges have been issued in Flint's Water Emergency.
ABC12 was the only local TV station in court Wednesday morning when a judge signed off on warrants listing over a dozen charges against three people at the heart of a special investigation.
Charges were handed down to Flint's Utilities Administrator Mike Glasgow, MDEQ supervisor Steven Busch and MDEQ engineer Mike Prysby. The charges were administered Wednesday morning in the city of Flint.
Busch and Prysby have been suspended without pay, effective immediately. Prysby and Busch were arraigned on Wednesday in Judge Mark McCabe's court. Attorneys entered not guilty pleas for both. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 4 at 9 a.m. Both are on personal bond.
Before they left the courtroom, we got a statement from Busch's attorney, Mark Kriger.
"We've entered a plea of not guilty. I just don't think it's appropriate to comment on impending litigation. I think the proper form is the courtroom," he said.
Glasgow has not turned himself in yet. He is on paid leave for now.
Attorney General Bill Schuette says he thinks all three men should be fired.
There is a possibility of jail for all three of the men. Here's how the charges break down:
MIKE GLASGOW, Flint's Utilities Administrator:
1 – tampering with evidence
2 – willful neglect on duty
ABC12 first questioned the way Glasgow reported lead results five months ago, in November. In an ABC12 investigation, we obtained records showing lead testing was done mostly at homes with copper service lines, instead of homes with lead service lines, which are most at risk for lead exposure. Glasgow said then that the samplings were not done correctly, but that the problem was old records and told ABC12 News there was no intent to misreport samplings to the DEQ.
“A lot of these pipes and a lot of this info was recorded 40, 50, 70 years ago. Without the ability to access the plumbing, it kind of floated over the radar,” Glasgow said in November.
STEVEN BUSCH, MDEQ supervisor:
1 – misconduct in office
2 – conspiracy to tamper with evidence
3 – tampering with evidence
4 – treatment violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act
5 – monitoring violating of the Safe Water Drinking Act
In February of last year, Busch told the EPA in an email that Flint had a corrosion control program to fight against lead. The city did not.
A month later, Busch e-mailed the Genesee County Health Department, saying it was unlikely legionella would be present in Flint water.
Legionnaires' disease has killed 12 people in the county and made more than 90 people sick. There is work still being done to determine if the outbreak was caused by Flint water.
MIKE PRYSBY, MDEQ engineer:
1 – misconduct in office
2 – misconduct in office
3 – conspiracy to tamper with evidence
4 – tampering with evidence
5 – treatment violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act
6 – monitoring violating of the Safe Water Drinking Act
This year, an email from Prysby to a coworker at the DEQ made news after people said it made light of the water emergency. Prysby wrote, "Off to physical therapy...perhaps mental therapy with all of these Flint calls... LOL."
The special investigators say testing was done on water samples in early 2015 to skew results to make it appear lead levels were lower than they actually were.
They say Glasgow was taking cues from Busch and Prysby.
Busch and Prysby are accused of violating the safe water drinking act by not advising the city to use corrosion control to treat the water. That's ultimately is what caused lead to get into the system.
The misconduct in office charges were doled out for preventing local health officials from investigating deadly cases of Legionnaires’ disease that spiked after the city switched to the Flint River.
Back in January, Attorney General Bill Schuette launched a criminal investigation to find out who is to blame for Flint's water emergency. He appointed a former Wayne County prosecutor and a former FBI investigator to head up the team.
When ABC12 News spoke with Schuette in January, he promised people behind this "catastrophe", as he calls it, will be held accountable.
"Get out of bed, have drink of water, take a shower, that's not normal in Flint because of the problems in Flint. It cause people despair, anger and frustration. It causes me that," he said Wednesday. "As a husband, father and attorney, general lawyer for the citizens of Michigan, I am going to find the truth. That is what I am going to do."
Governor Rick Snyder spoke out following the announcement of the charges.
Snyder says the charges filed are deeply troubling and if these accusations are correct, it will take this crisis to a whole new level. He went on to say that Michigan residents, specifically Flint residents, deserve justice and deserve the truth.
Several reporters also asked the Governor if he was questioned by the Attorney General's office.
"With respect to this investigation, I have not been questioned or been interviewed at this point in time. Our office has been cooperating, as I mentioned earlier, with this investigation," he said.
Snyder was also asked if he believes he did anything criminally wrong.
"I don't even want to get into that kind of speculation. I don't believe so. And so, the point here is, I'm concerned about how this could go over with 47,000 employees that are working hard every day to do good things,” he said.
He went on to say that his staff plans on fully cooperating with this investigation as it continues.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is also reacting to the charges. She was at the Riverbank Center in the room as Schuette announced the charges. She called this a day one she and the citizens have been waiting for. She wants anybody and everybody that had a hand in harming the people of Flint punished, even if it hits close to home, at city hall.
"The attorney general says it doesn't stop here, so we want the complete story,” she said. "I feel like we've started making strides, but there's a long way to go."
Weaver learned Tuesday that charges were coming down, but she didn't have specifics until Wednesday.
“It's always a mixed reaction when you find out it's going to be one of your employees, but like I said, we've been waiting. This is something we've been waiting for and the citizens have been waiting for this, so I was anxious to come,” she said.
The Mayor said she's hopeful for a thorough investigation and says it's important for funding needs to not get lost with these latest developments.
Those who live and work in Flint say they're happy to see charges.
"It's good for us to know that we're finally going to get the justice we deserve as a city," said Mariah Patten.
Melissa Mays was one of the first people in Flint to raise her voice over water quality issues. She called Wednesday's charges a good first step, but says more people need to pay for the decision that lead to lead-contaminated water.
"I don't understand them having any kind of motivation to do this to us and to allow this to happen unless somebody up the line was telling them to do this,” she said.
City Council President Kerry Nelson also weighed in on the charges.
"We're standing in this crisis and they could have did something about it and did not and I'm quite sure, as the attorney general has said, it's not over. So we don't know what's coming ahead yet,” she said.
Congressman Dan Kildee had this to say after the criminal charges were filed: “Justice in the Flint water crisis is important and I support any investigation, including at the state and federal level, that are led by the facts and seek to hold those responsible accountable. Today’s criminal charges are one step to bringing justice to Flint families who are the victims of this terrible tragedy. There are many forms of justice, and one of them is making it right for the people of Flint. More resources are needed right now for Flint families who continue to face this public health emergency. The state, having created this man-made crisis, needs to step up in a big way with more resources. In Congress, I, along with Michigan’s Senators, continue to pursue any way around Republican objections to a federal Flint aid package.”
Sources are telling us this is just the beginning. Special investigators referred to this as the "first wave" of charges, with many more to come. They have 2.5 million emails to go through.
"We may have charged these three gentlemen, but that doesn't mean we are done," Schuette said.
To read the court documents issued Wednesday morning, click the link in the 'Related Documents' section of this story.