More charges filed in Flint water crisis

The investigation into Flint’s water is far from over. Attorney General Bill Schutte announced 18 new charges for six state officials Friday during a press conference.

Charges range from misdemeanor Willful Neglect of Duty, to felony Tampering with Evidence. Among those charged is Liane Shekter-Smith, a former high-ranking official with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). Shekter-Smith served as the official in charge of keeping the state’s drinking water safe. Schuette says Shekter-Smith and two men she supervised failed in their duties.

“Ms. Shekter-Smith ignored reports that the plant was out of compliance,” he said. “Lied. Lied that the water plant was certified and deliberately misled her superiors.”

Nancy Peeler was the director of the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting last July. She is charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor.

Schuette alleges Peeler buried a report that showed a significant spike in blood lead tests for Flint kids. Peeler is also accused of falsely reporting no significant rise in blood lead levels in children for the summer of 2014.

Attorney General Bill Schuette accused Peeler and others of not paying attention to the city’s children.

“They put the children of Flint on the backburner,” he said. “Ignored them and ignored the truth about what was happening in the city of Flint.”

Peeler was suspended without pay after the charges were announced.

Schuette promised justice for the families of Flint saying, “And when our investigation is completed and our prosecutions are successful, then accountability and justice will be delivered to families in Flint and to families in Michigan.”

Last April two MDEQ employees and one City of Flint employees made up the first round of criminal charges. Schutte made clear that the investigation was still ongoing, although there are no specific targets as the investigation continues. According to chief investigator Andy Arena, this could be the largest criminal investigation in the state’s history.