WUOMFM

Four more criminally charged for their role in the Flint water crisis

Dec 20, 2016

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed criminal charges against two former City of Flint employees, and two former state-appointed emergency managers in Flint.  

The four charged are:

  • Darnell Earley, former Flint Emergency Manager
  • Gerald Ambrose, former Flint Emergency Manager
  • Howard Croft, former Director of Public Works in Flint
  • Daugherty Johnson, former Flint Utilities Director

The defendants were charged with a range of felony charges, including “willful neglect of duty,” “false pretenses,” and “misconduct in office.”

State-appointed emergency managers were overseeing everything in Flint from November of 2011 until April of 2015. Flint had a revolving door of emergency managers during that time.

(To see how this revolving door played into the water crisis, see our timeline here.)

There was a push by emergency managers in Flint to end the city's contract with Detroit for drinking water, saying it was too expensive.

The AG’s office claims that when Earley and Ambrose were running things in the city, they improperly used bonds in the cash-strapped city to help pay for the construction of the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline – Earley and Ambrose, according to the AG's office, went around a state law to get these funds, allegedly claiming the funds “were needed to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond.”

When they terminated the contract with Detroit, emergency managers in the city decided to use the Flint River as an interim source of water while the new pipeline was being built.

The problems with the city's drinking water started soon after.

Ambrose and Earley were singled out for their role in blocking a return to water provided by the City of Detroit when these problems arose - even though they allegedly knew of serious problems in managing the city's water supply. More from the AG's office:

During that time, the defendants actively worked in various fashions to discourage a return to using water produced by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, require the use of Flint River water through a Flint Water Treatment Plant, that was deemed unready for service by several people involved with its management, and to ensure the construction of the KWA.

The two city staff charged today, Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson, were singled out for "aiding and abetting" the emergency managers in the effort to attain the bonds for the KWA pipeline, and for blocking a return to Detroit water.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Gerald Ambrose was also charged for his alleged role in the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the city. The AG's office says Ambrose "obstructed and hindered a healthcare investigation conducted by the Genesee County Health Department" with regard to the disease outbreak.

In total, 13 people have now been charged for their involvement in the Flint water crisis. No prosecutions have occurred. Schuette's office has a web page showing the number of criminal investigations they are pursuing. 

Critics say Schuette is grandstanding with no real results. They point to the fact that the Attorney General's office is actively fighting against a federal court order to deliver bottled water to residents. 

More from a press release from Flint Rising, a Flint-focused advocacy group:

“Bill Schuette and elected leaders in the State Capitol should not rest until every Flint resident has access to clean, safe water, wraparound health and education services, full reimbursement of their water bills, and the Emergency Manager Law is repealed in its entirety,” Shariff continued. “We are tired of the selective showboating being masked as justice. We demand complete justice now and we will not rest until we get it.”

A spokesperson for the AG's office, Andrea Bitely, says Bill Schuette himself is not involved in fighting the federal court order to deliver bottled water to Flint residents.

In an e-mail, Bitely explained, "Assistant Attorneys General in that case are actually on the opposite side of a conflict wall from the AG and are arguing on behalf of the Governor. The AG was in no way involved in that process."

More on the charges from Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office:

Darnell Earley is charged with the following:

  • False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.
  • Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.
  • Misconduct in Office, Felony, 5 Years and/or $10,000.00
  • Willful Neglect of Duty in Office, Misdemeanor: 1 Year and/or $1,000.00

Gerald Ambrose is charged with the following:

  • False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.
  • Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.
  • Misconduct in Office, Felony, 5 Years and/or $10,000.00
  • Willful Neglect of Duty in Office, Misdemeanor: 1 Year and/or $1,000.00

Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson are charged with the following:

  • False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.
  • Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

*Correction - A previous version of this story said Bill Schuette was actively involved in fighting a federal court order to deliver bottled water to Flint residents. The Michigan Attorney General's office is fighting that court order, but Schuette himself is not involved in that litigation. The copy has been clarified above.