Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty on Wednesday resulting from an investigation into the Flint water crisis.
Online court records show that the charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the Associated Press.
The indictment is a first for the Wolverine State, where no governor has ever been charged with a crime related to his or her tenure in office in the state’s 184-year history.
Snyder, a Republican, was serving as governor when state water managers in 2014 began using water from the Flint River for drinking water as a cost-cutting measure — without properly treating it. The city’s residents, the majority of whom are black, were then exposed to high levels of lead contamination in their drinking water while the state completed construction of a pipeline from Lake Huron.
Lead is a heavy metal used in pipes for decades. The mineral can cause learning disabilities and other health problems, particularly in children. The Flint River’s water is particularly corrosive, and lead from the pipes dissolved into the water at rates that far surpassed recommended levels.
Residents made desperate pleas about the poor water quality, and photos circulated of murky, discolored water in jugs and bottles. Snyder’s administration took no action until a doctor reported that lead levels found in children had more than doubled after the city started using Flint River water.
The insufficient water treatment protocols led to at least 90 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in Michigan’s Genesee County, resulting in at least 12 deaths. Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacteria commonly found in freshwater that can be spread when aerosolized by cooling systems.
“I’m sorry, and I will fix it,” Snyder said in 2016.
Since then, more than 9,700 lead lines in homes around Flint have been replaced.
Criminal investigations into government dereliction have continued for five years under two state attorneys general. When Dana Nessel was elected in 2019, prosecutors dismissed eight charges and restarted the investigations, citing a failure to collect available evidence.
The Washington Examiner reached out to Snyder for further comment.