Michigan’s health chief, four others charged with manslaughter over Flint water contamination

Nick Lyon, Michigan's Health and Human Services director, on June 5.
Nick Lyon, Michigan’s Health and Human Services director, on June 5.
(David Eggert / Associated Press)

Five people, including the head of Michigan’s health department, were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter in an investigation of Flint’s lead-contaminated water, all blamed in the death of an 85-year-old man who contracted Legionnaires’ disease.

Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon became the highest ranking member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration to be snagged in the state criminal investigation of how Flint’s water system became poisoned after officials tapped the Flint River in 2014.

Lyon, director of the Health and Human Services Department, is accused of failing to alert the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area, which has been linked by some experts to poor water quality in 2014-15. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.


Lyon also is charged with misconduct in office for allegedly obstructing researchers who are studying whether the surge in cases was linked to the Flint River water.

The others charged along with Lyon were already facing charges. They are: Darnell Earley, who was Flint’s emergency manager when the city used the river for its water; Howard Croft, who ran Flint’s public works department; Liane Shekter Smith; and Stephen Busch. Shekter Smith and Busch were state environmental regulators.

The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eden Wells, was charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice and lying to an investigator.