The nature of the criminal charges were not immediately clear.
Randall L. Levine, an attorney representing Baird, confirmed in a statement to the Post Tuesday that authorities notified him this week about indictments. He said Baird “will be facing charges stemming from his work helping to restore safe drinking water for all residents and faith in the community where he grew up.” But he added that Baird had not yet “been made aware of what the charges are, or how they are related to his position with former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration."
Courtney Covington, a spokeswoman for Nessel’s office, told The Washington Post that the office’s investigators were still working “diligently” and declined to comment on the probe or confirm reports that charges are imminent.
Brian Lennon, an attorney for Snyder, blasted the reported charges as a “smear campaign.”
“It is outrageous to think any criminal charges would be filed against Gov. Snyder,” Lennon said in Tuesday statement in which he characterized any such action against the former governor as “meritless” and politically motivated.
Separately, Chip Chamberlain, an attorney for Lyon, said in a statement Tuesday that criminal charges against his client “would be an absolute travesty of justice.” He added that previous charges filed against Lyon in 2017 “were politically motivated and meritless, and after two years of baseless claims and personal attacks they were dismissed.”
Nessel’s office dropped all criminal charges in the case in 2019, shortly after she took office, effectively restarting the probe.
Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician whose research in 2015 first documented dangerously high lead levels in children’s blood, welcomed news of the reported charges.
“As a pediatrician privileged to care for our Flint children, I have increasingly come to understand that accountability and justice are critical to health and recovery,” Hanna-Attisha told The Post in a text message Tuesday. “Without justice, it’s impossible to heal the scars of the crisis.”
Hanna-Attisha, director of pediatric residency at the Hurley Children’s Hospital in Flint, warned that while the news was a salve for the many families whose lives had been affected by the poisoned water, criminal charges are only part of the story.
“I am hopeful this news serves as a reminder of Flint’s lessons; where the perfect storm of environmental injustice, indifferent bureaucracy, lost democracy & austerity, compounded by decades of racism & deindustrialization left a city powerless & forgotten,” she said. “Never again should this country have to deal with the generational repercussions of a community poisoned by policies.”
The early days of the crisis trace back to April 2014, when Flint switched its water supply to the Flint River in a cost-savings stopgap measure until a permanent pipeline project was complete. After the switch, Flint residents immediately complained about the water’s odor and appearance, eventually reporting health issues such as skin rashes. Even as complaints persisted for months, the city still advised residents that the water was safe.
A dozen people died of a Legionnaire’s outbreak in 2014 amid the crisis, though a 2019 investigation found that the death toll was probably much higher.
“Residents of Flint were repeatedly told they were crazy. They were belittled. They were harmed by the water physically, emotionally,” Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ve always said that I think criminal charges are important, because I think it’s criminal what happened to my town.”
Ananich emphasized that he doesn’t know the extent of the charges expected later this week, but he does hope they send a clear message: “No person, no politician, no one is above the law.”
For Flint families who continue to live with the irreversible effects of the tainted water, Tuesday’s news symbolized a level of vindication.
“I can’t believe it,” Gina Luster, a Flint community activist, told The Post in a message. “Finally, after 7 years of fighting for justice.”
Reacting to the news via Facebook, Luster added an emoji: The scales of justice.