LANSING, Mich. — The state of Michigan has spent at least $304,000 on lawyers who are representing 16 current or former health department workers under investigation in the Flint water crisis, a newspaper reported Saturday.
About $42,000 has been paid to a Grand Rapids law firm representing Nick Lyon, director of the Health and Human Services Department, who for months didn’t tell Gov. Rick Snyder that the Flint area had a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014 and 2015.
Lyon, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment to the Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/2d4fLRY ).
“Lots of people have criminal defense attorneys who never are charged. You need someone to walk you through the process,” said attorney Larry Willey, who is representing Lyon with partner Chip Chamberlain.
The Michigan attorney general’s office is investigating Flint’s lead-tainted water and a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area.
Corrine Miller, former director of disease control and prevention, recently pleaded no contest to willful neglect of duty. Miller said she was aware of the Legionnaires’ cases in 2014, after Flint began drawing corrosive water from the Flint River for everyday use, but didn’t tell the public.
A definitive connection between the water and Legionnaires’ has not been made, but many experts believe it likely was the cause. At least 91 Legionnaires’ cases were reported in the Flint area in 2014 and 2015, including 12 deaths. The public wasn’t told until last January.
Legionnaires’ disease is a pneumonia caused by bacteria that thrive in warm water and infect the lungs. Cooling systems can be a carrier.
Miller’s plea agreement states that she had informed “Suspect 1” and “Suspect 2” about Legionnaires’. Their names haven’t been released.
The governor has expressed support for Lyon, as recently as Wednesday. Nine people have been charged in the Flint probe.
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com