Flint Worker Facing Criminal Charges Takes Plea Deal

by | May 5, 2016

By Elisha Anderson

A Flint city worker, one of three people criminally charged in connection with the Flint water crisis, has reached a plea agreement in the case.

Michael Glasgow, the city's laboratory and water quality supervisor, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty at his arraignment Wednesday and the felony charge against him, tampering with evidence, will be dismissed.

He agreed to continue to cooperate with the ongoing investigation as part of the deal.

Attorneys in the case met throughout the morning before the plea agreement was announced in Flint's 67th District Court. As part of the agreement, the court didn't enter the plea on Wednesday, and a new date was set for Aug. 3 in the case.

Todd Flood, special counsel for the state Attorney General's Office who is prosecuting the case, said Glasgow manipulated a report by saying the homes Flint used to test tap water all had lead service lines when he didn't know whether they did. Officials believe Flint got low lead readings because it didn't test the homes most at risk -- those with lead service lines or other features putting them at high risk for lead.

But he also said Glasgow tried to get assistance and get questions answered.

"He was the one that was attempting to give notice to the world that 'we have the Titanic and people are telling us to have the violins keep on playing,' " Flood said after the hearing.

Glasgow didn't comment to reporters after the hearing and stood next to his attorney, Robert Harrison, as the lawyer answered questions from the media.

Harrison said Glasgow "wants to cooperate." He explained the court will keep the case under advisement and "at some point ... up to a year from now, the charges will be dismissed. All charges will be dismissed."

Flood said that could happen if Glasgow fulfills all the conditions of the agreement, including cooperating and testifying later on.

Glasgow, 40, and two state workers, all of whom were responsible for maintaining safe water in Flint, were charged criminally last month.

Glasgow's plea agreement announcement came just hours before President Barack Obama addressed residents and the media at Northwestern High School in Flint. There, he took sips from a glass of water during his speech.

Stephen Busch and Michael Prysby, both employees with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality suspended from their jobs without pay, are facing multiple felonies and misdemeanors. Not guilty pleas were entered in the cases when Busch and Prysby were arraigned last month.

The defendants were charged in connection with the investigation into the Flint water crisis by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who said Wednesday more charges will come "Capital letters SOON."

Busch, the Lansing district coordinator for the DEQ's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, and Prysby, an engineer with the DEQ, were scheduled to have a probable cause conference Wednesday, but it was adjourned.

Busch, 40, faces three felonies, including misconduct in office and tampering with evidence, and two misdemeanors; Prysby, 53, faces four felonies, including misconduct in office and tampering with evidence, and two misdemeanors.

According to a warrant request obtained by the Free Press, Glasgow talked on the phone with Busch and Prysby after tests showed Flint's drinking water had excessive lead during the summer of 2015 and the DEQ officials "insisted" that Glasgow alter a July 2015 report and exclude two test sites.

Doing so lowered the average lead level below the threshold that would have required residents to be notified of the dangerous lead levels in the water supply, the document said.

Harrison, Glasgow's attorney, said they were excluded because DEQ workers said one property had a pollution control device on it disqualifying it and the second was a commercial property, which also didn't qualify for the report.

The cases against local and state officials came two years after Flint changed its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014, creating the public health crisis that residents are still living with today.

Many of the people from Flint, a city of nearly 100,000 residents, still refuse to drink from their taps, even with filters, and instead rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth and sometimes bathing.

Lead leached from pipes, joints and fixtures when officials failed to add corrosion-control chemicals and blood-lead levels spiked in many children in Flint. The city moved its source of water back to Lake Huron last year, but concerns about contamination remain because the Flint River water damaged pipes and other infrastructure.

In an email from April 2014, Glasgow wrote to the DEQ saying the Flint Water Treatment Plant was not ready to start treating Flint River water later that month, as scheduled, and it would do so over his objections.

Glasgow also previously said that it was Prysby who told him the Flint Water Treatment Plant did not need to use corrosion-control chemicals in treating the Flint River water, and that it could instead conduct six-month studies to determine whether lead levels in the water warranted adding the chemicals.

Busch sent a February 2015 e-mail to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official saying the Flint Water Treatment plant was using "optimized corrosion control" when in fact it was not using corrosion controls.

Busch and Prysby are also accused of impeding an investigation into Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area. No source of the outbreak has been determined but the uptick in cases started after Flint changed its drinking water supply source in 2014.

There were 12 deaths linked to Legionnaires' disease during a 17-month time period in 2014 and 2015 and dozens others got sick, state health officials have said

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