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Six More Officials Charged in Flint Water Crisis for Alleged Cover-Up

by Blake McCoy and Tracy Connor /  / Updated 
Registered Nurse Brian Jones draws a blood sample from Grayling Stefek, 5, at the Eisenhower Elementary School, on Jan. 26, 2016 in Flint, Mich. The students were being tested for lead after the metal was found in the city's drinking water.Carlos Osorio / AP

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Six more government workers have been hit with criminal charges in connection with the Flint water crisis — including a state health official who allegedly "buried" a report that showed a spike in lead poisoning in children.

The charges filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette bring to nine the number of current and former state officials who face possible jail time for their handling of the debacle.

"It's part arrogance, it's part viewing people in Flint as expendable," Schuette said when asked why the officials allegedly covered up the water problems.

Registered Nurse Brian Jones draws a blood sample from Grayling Stefek, 5, at the Eisenhower Elementary School, on Jan. 26, 2016 in Flint, Mich. The students were being tested for lead after the metal was found in the city's drinking water.Carlos Osorio / AP

Those charged Friday include three who worked for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; the allegations center on a report created in July 2015 that showed a spike in lead in Flint's kids.

The official who requested the report, Nancy Peeler, never forwarded it to other officials, and she joined up with another worker, Robert Scott, to create a second report that did not show a spike, Schuette alleged.

A third health worker, Corinne Miller, told others not to take action on the first report and had a co-worker delete emails about the original data, Schuette said.

The other three officials worked for the Department of Environmental Quality.

The former chief of the Office of Drinking Water, Liane Shekter-Smith, allegedly failed to act on complaints about water quality as well as knowledge of a Legionnaires disease outbreak and lead issues. She "took steps to mislead and conceal evidence from health officials in phone calls revealed by the investigation," Schuette said.

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One of Shekter-Smith's underlings, Adam Rosenthal, is accused of manipulating lead test results to show that Flint's water wasn't out of compliance with federal standards. His co-worker Peter Cook allegedly misled the feds about whether corrosion control methods were needed after Flint's water supply was switched.

Because corrosion control was not used, the harsher water from the Flint River ate away at the protective coating inside pipes, leaching lead into drinking water. After repeatedly assurances that the water was safe, the state eventually admitted an untold number of children had been poisoned for months.

The charges filed Friday include misconduct in office, conspiracy and willful neglect of duty. The top counts carry up to five years in prison.

Smith's attorney, Brian Morley, told the Associated Press that he expected she would be vindicated.

"I think we're going to be really hard-pressed to find that she did anything wrong, and certainly nothing criminally wrong," he said.

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