FLINT, Michigan: Charges against seven former state and local officials in connection with the Flint water scandal have been dropped.
Ruling this week, Judge Elizabeth Kelly of Michigan’s 7th Judicial Circuit Court dropped the felony charges, ruling that the charges were invalid due to a procedural error.
The officials who had been earlier indicted include former Governor Rick Snyder, then-state health director Nick Lyon and former state medical executive Eden Wells.
In 2014, under state-appointed managers, the government of Flint switched its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River to cut costs, but corrosive river water affecting pipes caused lead poisoning that affected thousands of children, and led to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Judge Kelly’s decision is based on a June ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court that so-called “one-person grand juries” do not have authority to bring indictments, but they have power to subpoena witnesses and issue warrants.
The state’s top court also dismissed charges against seven others.
“If the People seek future charges against Defendants, they must follow one of the proper charging procedures outlined by the Supreme Court,” Kelly said in her ruling.
The water crisis in Flint, a city of some 100,000 people with the majority being people of color, was widely viewed as an example of how U.S. environmental problems have disproportionately affected communities of color.
In November, a federal judge approved a $626 million partial settlement for victims of the crisis, with most of the money being allocated to children.
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