School Climate & Safety

Former Detroit Schools Manager Charged in Flint Water Crisis Case

By Corey Mitchell — December 20, 2016 2 min read
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Michigan’s attorney general has charged former Detroit schools emergency manager Darnell Earley with crimes related to the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

Earley resigned as Detroit schools emergency manager in February amid growing concerns over his job performance and the direction of the troubled school district. Before that, he served as Flint’s emergency manager at the time the city changed its water source to the Flint River in April 2014.

The criminal charges stem from the decision to provide water to residents that was not properly treated, leading to lead contamination, after the city switched its water supply in a cost-cutting move. Earley faces charges of false pretenses, conspiracy to commit false pretenses, willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office, and false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Earley faced criticism early and often in both roles, for what happened with the water supply in Flint and the problems within the Detroit schools such as crowded classrooms, crumbling schools, and the district’s mounting debt. Teachers in Detroit staged several sickouts to protest the mold, water damage, and rodent problems in some of the city’s older schools. They said Earley all but ignored their complaints.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Earley to both posts. Gerald Ambrose, another former emergency manager appointed by Snyder, and two former Flint public works officials were also charged Tuesday, bringing the number of defendants in the lead-in-water crisis to 13.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette alleges that Earley and Ambrose allowed Flint’s water treatment plant to produce water, knowing the danger it would pose for residents. Schuette also said they authorized false and misleading public statements that the water was safe to drink.

While appearing before Congress, Earley testified that he relied on experts from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to advise him.

The Detroit Free Press reported in April that Flint investigators executed a search warrant at Earley’s Detroit schools office the day of his resignation.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.