June 15, 2017 / 8:46 PM / 2 months ago

Michigan officials vow to fight charges over Flint water crisis: reports

FILE PHOTO - The Flint Water Plant tower is seen in Flint, Michigan, U.S. on February 7, 2016.Rebecca Cook/File Photo

(Reuters) - Lawyers for two top Michigan health officials on Thursday pledged to fight criminal charges filed a day earlier in connection with Flint's water crisis that was linked to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease and at least 12 deaths, according to local news reports.

State health director Nick Lyon, charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office stemming from his role in the crisis, and Eden Wells, the state's chief medical executive charged with obstruction of justice and lying to police, appeared at bond hearings Thursday in District Court in Flint, the Detroit News reported.

Charles Chamberlain, Lyon's attorney, and Jerold Lax, Wells' attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment. But the attorneys both told the newspaper that they would contest the charges.

"I expect it will be clear that Dr. Wells is a competent, dedicated and respected health professional and that any action she took during this unfortunate situation was taken only for the purpose of protecting legitimate public health concerns," Lax said, according the newspaper.

Lyon was released on a $15,000 bond, and Wells was released on a personal recognizance bond, according to the local news website Mlive.com.

They were among six current and former Michigan and Flint officials criminally charged on Wednesday. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has said Lyon and Wells would remain in their jobs.

Court documents allege Lyon was aware of the Legionnaires' outbreak in Genesee County at least one year before he informed the public. His deliberate failure to inform the public resulted in the death of Genesee Township resident Robert Skidmore, 85, from Legionnaires' in December 2015, the documents said.

Wells is alleged to have lied to police about when she became aware of the outbreak, according to the documents. She also threatened a team of independent researchers who were studying the source of the disease, court documents said.

Reporting by Chris Kenning, editing by G Crosse

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