News Feature | September 21, 2016

Former Michigan Official Admits She Ignored Health Problems In Flint

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A former Michigan official admitted last week that she had data about health problems in Flint, MI, amid a tap-water crisis in the city but did not speak up publicly about what she knew.

“The former epidemiologist for Michigan acknowledged in a plea deal that she was aware of dozens of cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area around the time the city changed its water source, but that she did not report it to the general public,” The New York Times reported.

The official is Corinne Miller, the former director of disease control and prevention at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She took a plea deal, accepting a misdemeanor charge. In exchange, prosecutors dropped felony charges including misconduct in office and conspiracy. The development is the latest attempt to bring accountability to the Flint crisis through a wide-ranging investigation into wrongdoing in the beleaguered city.

Miller pleaded “no contest to willful neglect of duty by a public officer. As part of the agreement, Miller, who retired from the department in 2016, must cooperate with the Michigan Attorney General Office’s investigation into the water crisis and provide truthful testimony,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

The agreement means Miller will not serve jail time, according to Michigan Live. The plea deal stated that she reported to at least one other person “that an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015 ‘was related to the switch in the water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River’ but failed to report the problem to others,” Michigan Live reported.

Flint struggled with Legionnaires’ disease, a deadly pneumonia, several years in a row. “There were at least 12 deaths linked with an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area and 91 confirmed cases during a during a 17-month period in 2014 and 2015,” the Detroit Free Press reported.