Placards posted above water fountains warn against drinking the water at Flint Northwestern High School in Flint, Michigan, May 4, 2016.
The story behind the Flint water crisis
02:01 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Flint Public Works director Howard Croft were each charged Wednesday with two counts of willful neglect of duty as part of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, according to court documents.

The charges are misdemeanors, punishable with up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000, the state’s penal code shows.

CNN has reached out to an attorney for Snyder and an attorney for Croft for comment on the charges.

Twelve people died and more than 80 were sickened as a result of two waves of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint during the water crisis.

Brian Lennon, an attorney for Snyder, said earlier Wednesday that his client was being made into a scapegoat by a politically driven special counsel. Lennon called reports that his client would be charged “meritless” and part of a “political escapade.”

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office had no comment about the charges Wednesday evening.

An attorney for Croft told The Detroit News that his client was informed Monday he would be charged.

Flint’s water problems can be traced back to 2014, when city and state officials switched the city’s water supply from the Detroit Water System to the contaminated Flint River in an effort to cut costs. That decision exposed residents to extremely high levels of lead and prompted more than a dozen lawsuits against those involved.

Snyder apologized in 2016 for the state’s role in the crisis.

Court documents for Snyder show the offense date as April 25, 2014, the same day Flint switched its water source.

The Flint Water Prosecution Team scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning to announce its findings. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy are expected to attend.

Last year, the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, and a court monitored compensation fund for victims was established.

The switch to water from the Flint River was supposed to be temporary while a new supply line to Lake Huron was completed. When the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality failed to treat the corrosive water, it ate into the city’s iron and lead pipes and leached into the drinking water.

Flint residents had been complaining about the poor quality of their water when the Environmental Protection Agency tested water going into homes there in 2015, finding dangerous levels of lead, which can cause serious health issues.

The Legionnaires’ disease outbreak led to criminal charges against state officials, including Nick Lyon, then-director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in 2017.

Prosecutors dropped all criminal charges in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

More than a dozen lawsuits, including several class-action suits, were filed against the state, the city of Flint and some state and city employees involved in the decision to switch the source of the drinking water and those responsible for monitoring water quality.

Snyder, who was elected in 2010, served until 2018.