Flint official takes deal, pledges to cooperate in probe

AP News
|
Posted: May 04, 2016 7:13 PM
Flint official takes deal, pledges to cooperate in probe

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Flint municipal official struck a deal with prosecutors Wednesday, pledging cooperation in exchange for reduced charges as authorities continue investigating lead contamination of the impoverished Michigan city's drinking water supply.

Utilities administrator Mike Glasgow entered a plea to one count of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor, in exchange for dismissal of a felony charge of tampering with evidence. The state attorney general's office said the deal will take effect in one year.

The neglect of duty count is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. But the attorney general's office said both charges will be dropped if Glasgow keeps his promise to assist and testify during future court proceedings.

Two officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality also have been charged.

Meanwhile, Michigan senators voted to spend $128 million more this fiscal year in Flint, where the lead pollution has led residents to use faucet filters or bottled water.

The emergency aid bill, passed 34-3, was sent to the House for consideration. A Senate committee also approved a fund transfer to expand government-provided health insurance coverage to 15,000 children and pregnant women in the Flint area starting next week.

Glasgow, 40, is one of three officials charged with criminal offenses in connection with the disaster. He oversaw day-to-day operations of the water plant when the city changed its water source from Detroit, which draws from Lake Huron, to the Flint River in April 2014. At the time, government operations in the city of nearly 100,000 were controlled by a state-appointed emergency manager.

Shortly before the switchover, Glasgow complained in an email to a state official that things were moving too quickly and the water plant staff was not ready. Still, prosecutors said he failed to perform duties required of a certified water plant operator.

Also facing charges of evidence tampering, misconduct in office and safe drinking water violations are Michael Prysby, a former district engineer with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Stephen Busch, a supervisor in the department's drinking water office. Both pleaded guilty last month. A probable cause hearing scheduled for Wednesday in their cases was delayed.

Glasgow has said Prysby instructed him not to add anti-corrosive chemicals to the water in what the state department later acknowledged was a misreading of federal regulations. The omission enabled the corrosive river water to scrape lead from aging pipes and reach some homes and schools.

The funding under consideration by the Legislature would be the fourth round since the health disaster was confirmed seven months ago. Gov. Rick Snyder and legislators previously authorized $67 million for the emergency.

The latest bill includes $25 million to replace lead pipes that connect water mains to customers and more than $48 million to create a reserve fund for future costs.

Unlike when the Republican-led Legislature unanimously approved the earlier three aid requests from the GOP governor — who has apologized for regulatory and other failures that created and prolonged the crisis — three Republican senators voted against the new funding.

"There's a lot of other communities that have similar infrastructure issues that we have with Flint," said Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who contended that the $67 million already allocated is enough to address the actual emergency response and has not been fully spent. "You're setting up community-specific bailouts when a lot of other communities would benefit from that same sort of treatment as well."

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said legislators fatigued with Flint budget bills should keep in mind that the spending would help residents.

The state Senate also approved a spending bill that includes about $39 million for the Flint emergency in the budget year that begins in October.

___

Flesher reported from Traverse City.

___

Online:

Senate Bill 777: http://1.usa.gov/24ylODj