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Attorney general speaks to Cedar Springs students

 

Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette with Cedar Springs students.

Cedar Springs students team with Schuette, Michigan State Police to tackle bullying, violence

By Judy Reed

Students walk the hallways at school every day carrying weights that others know nothing about. Some are victims of physical abuse, either at home or at school; some are being bullied by their peers; some are victims of sexting or date rape; and others feel like failures and are contemplating suicide or violence.

Cedar Springs High School and Middle School students kicked off a program last Thursday, April 14, that gives students a way to report and stop bullying and violence.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette was on hand, along with the Michigan State Police and local law enforcement, to kick off the OK2SAY program, a student safety initiative that enables students to confidentially report criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees, and schools. Leaders from numerous community groups were also on hand for the presentation.

Since its inception in 2014, students have submitted more than 3,700 tips across the State of Michigan. Bullying, cyber bullying, self-harm, and suicide are the categories that receive the most tips. Other categories that receive tips include: drug use, weapon possession, and assault.

Based on research from the U.S. Secret Service, in 81 percent of violent incidents in U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it.

“OK2SAY is about communication, early intervention, and prevention,” said Michigan State Police Inspector Matt Bolger. “When students make the courageous decision to break the code of silence and speak out against harmful behavior, they equip authorities with the information needed to respond to threats and avert tragedy. That’s a good thing for Michigan schools, communities, and families.”

The goal of OK2SAY is to stop harmful behavior before it occurs by encouraging students (or adults) to report threatening behavior to caring adult authorities who can help. They can confidentially submit tips anytime by using the OK2SAY mobile app, online, email, texting, or by calling trained program technicians. Upon receipt of a tip, specially trained OK2SAY technicians address the immediate need and forward the information to the appropriate responding law enforcement agency or organization. Tips go to schools, local law enforcement agencies, community mental health agencies or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Schuette told the students and The Post that it is about changing the culture from “don’t be a snitch” to “it’s ok to communicate to save a life.”

“OK2SAY has made a difference. We are stopping violence in its tracks and making school a safer place for our kids,” said Schuette. “Credit for the program’s success is directly attributable to the thousands of student ‘heroes in the hallway’ who stepped up and took ownership of their roles in keeping their schools and classmates safe.”

“The thing that struck me about the program, is that it has saved lives,” Schuette told the Post. “It’s not perfect. But what we have done is reached out to say, here is an opportunity to help people stop bullying, to stop a weapon being brought to school. It’s tech friendly, confidential. It can be done without fear of intimidation,” he explained.

Students have several ways they can communicate a tip to authorities. They can download and use the mobile app for either iPhone or android; they can call 1-8-555-OK2SAY, 1-855-565-2729; Text: 652729 (OK2SAY); they can email ok2say@mi.gov; or visit the Web: www.ok2say.com fill out an online form.

Attorney General Schuette honored Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.”

Attorney General Schuette honored Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.” Photo by J. Reed.

The state program, which started in fall 2014, just happened to be inspired by our current Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, before she came to Cedar Springs. Spry, who grew up in Greenville, was a principal at a school in Colorado, during the years after the attack at Columbine. Colorado adopted a program called “Safe to Tell,” and Spry said they adopted it at her high school in the Woodland Park District. “I knew the impact it had. It was a way for students to have that voice. They are not always comfortable coming forward,” she explained.

When Spry came home to Michigan, and settled in Cadillac, she began to work with legislators, the attorney general’s office, and community organizations to adopt a similar program here in Michigan. “I didn’t run across anyone who didn’t want it,” she said.

Schuette honored Spry during the program with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.” Spry did not know that was going to happen.

“It’s truly a passion of mine to make sure students in all of our schools are safe,” said Spry. “OK2SAY is a wonderful program, and I will be eternally grateful to the legislators, community groups and the attorney general that stepped up to see it through.”

Schuette explained that he does not often get to go to the kickoff of the programs. “We have a team of 35 of us that do this, and I go when I can,” he said. He seemed visibly pleased with the turnout of the crowd and the way that the program was embraced. “I think from the moment I walked in, and saw everyone, it was powerful and uplifting. It’s really a powerful tool. The more we can communicate this and get it out there, the better it will be.”

“School should be a safe and welcoming place for all students,” said Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Superintendent. “Cedar Springs Schools are committed to a bully-free environment. We are grateful that the Attorney General choose to visit our school to address our students and encourage them to step up and do the right thing.”

Attorney General Schuette poses with the new peer listening club. Photo by J. Reed.

Attorney General Schuette poses with the new peer listening club. Photo by J. Reed.

OK2SAY is not the only program being implemented to help students. The anti-bullying program in use at the elementary level, “Be Nice” is being moved up to secondary level, and a new peer listening club has been formed. The group was formed after senior Jessica Durrell heard about the program at a youth group she attended. She brought it back to her Rotary Interact Leadership group (another new program at the high school this year) and the peer listening group spun off into it’s own group. It is made up of nine members—six girls and three boys—who can listen to other students as needed during the day. “They will listen to peers who need to vent, talk about stressors, academics, etc.,” explained Dr. VanDuyn. “They are there to listen, not give advice.” Counselor volunteers have trained all the students.

For more information on OK2SAY, visit www.ok2say.com.

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CTA students found what’s bugging us in Cedar Creek

Nichol DeMull, of Trout Unlimited, instructs a CTA student on how to search for insects in Cedar Creek. Photo by J. Reed.

Nichol DeMull, of Trout Unlimited, instructs a CTA student on how to search for insects in Cedar Creek. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Stream monitoring done by Creative Technologies students this week show that Cedar Creek has excellent water quality, according to Nichol DeMull, of Trout Unlimited.

CTA biology and conservation students and teachers Jim Fredenberg and Trisha Rose teamed up with Trout Unlimited this week to do stream monitoring in Cedar Creek, at Riggle Park. According to DeMull, Fredenberg contacted her about possibly participating in the activity, since the school is nearby. DeMull and Jamie Vaughn did a presentation to the students on Monday, April 18, and the students donned waders and gloves Tuesday, April 19, to collect bugs from Cedar Creek and identify them. Some students waded through the Creek to scoop up the bugs, other students helped empty the nets, and others sorted through them. They identified and counted them, and recorded what they saw on a data sheet put together by the Michigan Clean Water Corps.

Students identify and count bugs found in Cedar Creek. Photo by J. Reed.

Students identify and count bugs found in Cedar Creek. Photo by J. Reed.

According to DeMull, bugs are the evidence of stream quality. “The students found a large diversity of insects in Cedar Creek. In the cleanest rivers, lakes, and ponds you’ll find the greatest diversity of aquatic invertebrates,” she explained. “In polluted waters, only a few species of stream insects can survive. Some of the insects they found included caddisflies, mayflies, and stoneflies. These insects are sensitive to pollution and can only survive in clean water.”

She said the students identified the kinds of insects, whether they were rare or common in the stream, and used a formula to come up with the Stream Quality Score.

CTA students teamed up in several groups to monitor bugs in Cedar Creek. Photo by J. Reed.

CTA students teamed up in several groups to monitor bugs in Cedar Creek. Photo by J. Reed.

DeMull said that we can assume that the excellent stream quality extends to a certain degree in both directions from Riggle Park. “We have another monitoring location at the mouth of Cedar Creek that we have been monitoring for about 5 years now. It also has an excellent stream quality score based on the stream insects found there,” she said.

DeMull explained that there are other things outside of the water that can also affect stream quality. “Cedar Creek has the cold groundwater and stream habitats to support a diversity of insects, but the land use around the stream has a lot to do with the kinds of insects you will find at a site. As an example, if we sample in a location where all of the trees are cut down and there is no shade (warming up the water) or if there is a lot of erosion on the banks (covering up the gravel with sand) the stream quality score might be lower.”

She said that they will continue to work with Creative Technologies Academy to work on Cedar Creek. “Something that Trout Unlimited is certainly interested in is having community members become stewards of their home waters,” said DeMull.

Trout Unlimited is still looking for volunteers to help with another stream monitoring event coming up on Saturday, May 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Rockford Community Cabin, 220 N. Monroe St. in Rockford. Volunteers will be assigned to a monitoring group with a team leader.  Each group will collect and identify insects from different stream sites in the Rogue River and Bear Creek watersheds. You don’t need any experience with stream insects to participate and all ages are welcome.

What will you need?  Please RSVP to Nichol De Mol at 231-557-6362 or ndemol@tu.org if you would like to attend.  Lunch will be provided for all volunteers. Please bring waders if you have them and dress for the weather conditions.

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Car crashes into business

A vehicle smashed into the Dollar Tree last Friday, April 15, causing damage inside and out. Thank you to the readers who shared photos with us.

A vehicle smashed into the Dollar Tree last Friday, April 15, causing damage inside and out. Thank you to the readers who shared photos with us.

The Dollar Tree, located on 17 Mile Road, behind Independent Bank, does not have a drive through window—but they almost did last Friday, April 15, when a customer hit the building with their vehicle.

According to Sgt. Jason Kelley, of the Kent County Sheriff Department’s Cedar Springs Unit, they received a call at approximately 10:40 a.m. of a private property crash at The Dollar Tree, 4117 17 Mile RD NE. The incident involved a vehicle that struck The Dollar Tree, causing damage to the building.

N-Dollar-store-crash2The investigating deputy interviewed a 52-year-old Cedar Springs woman who was driving the vehicle. The driver told deputies that she mistakenly pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal when parking her vehicle in front of The Dollar Tree. The vehicle lurched forward and struck the building, causing a large hole where it struck.

The crash did not cause any injuries.

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The Post travels to Arizona

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Kathy and Katia Corwin spent spring break in Arizona with Dave and Diane Taghon visiting Aunt Karen Shafer in Sun Lakes. They all enjoyed the Grand Canyon, Sedona (pictured is Chapel of the Holy Cross), and Jerome. Dave, Diane, Kathy and Katia spent a day embracing the beauty of Superstition Mountain, Canyon Lake and the history of Goldfield Ghost Town. The last day was spent at Picacho Peak and relaxing in Sun Lakes. What a great trip—being blessed with family and God’s amazing creations.

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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Schuette reads to Beach 2nd graders

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Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette was in Cedar Springs on Thursday, April 14, for the kickoff of the OK2SAY program for the high school and middle school, and afterward he visited Amy Dood’s second-grade class at Beach Elementary to read “The Three Little Javelinas” to the students.

Thank you, Bill, for visiting and taking time out to read to kids!

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Eagles spotted at Pine Lake

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Several readers have sent photos of eagles spotted around the area. This week we received another. Reader Bernie Hale spotted these eagles at Pine Lake on Tuesday, April 19. He also spotted one in Algoma Township last month. Thanks, Bernie!

Do you have nature or wildlife photos  you’d like to send us? You can email them to news@cedarspringspost.com. Include some information about the photo (what it is, where you took it, what’s happening) and your contact information. We will print as space allows.

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Restoring wetlands can put cash in your pocket

 

Do you own property that was historically wet but the natural drainage has been altered by the installation of ditches or agricultural drain tiles?

Do you own marginal agricultural land that is often difficult to plant in the spring or harvest in the fall because of wetness?

Are you interested in receiving technical assistance and cost-share money to improve wildlife habitat on your property by restoring wetlands?

You could be eligible to receive between $2,000-$5,000/acre for land that is restored to a wetland and protected with a conservation easement!

The Rogue River Watershed Partners and Trout Unlimited will be hosting a free wetland workshop for landowners at Rockford Brewing Company on Tuesday, April 26 from 6:00-7:30pm.  The workshop will highlight programs that assist private landowners to restore historic wetlands on their properties. Landowners that meet federal requirements may be eligible for wetland restoration payments that pay between $2,000-$5,000 per acre in Kent, Newaygo, and Ottawa Counties.

Hear from leading wetland experts, including representatives from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

If you have an interest in restoring wetland habitat on your property, this is the free workshop for you!

Why are wetlands necessary?

Wetlands provide a multitude of ecological, economic and social benefits. They provide habitat for fish, wildlife and a variety of plants. Wetlands are also important landscape features because they hold and slowly release floodwater and snow melt, and recharge groundwater.  This combined action of slowing and storing water reduces flooding downstream and shoreline erosion. Flooding and high flows in local rivers are becoming worse with increased development pressures, which add impervious surfaces, such as driveways and roads, which do not absorb rainfall.

Wetlands also act as filters to cleanse water of impurities, such as sediment and nutrients. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus contribute a large amount of pollution to Michigan’s lakes, river, and streams. Excess nutrients contribute to increased algae growth, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the water. Wetlands can filter out as much as 91 percent of the phosphorus and 86 percent of the nitrogen. Sediment (soil particles) is the leading non-point source pollutant in Michigan’s lakes, rivers and streams. Sediments that are suspended in running water can also be removed by wetlands. As the running water enters a wetland, the water slows and the sediments settle out. Some wetlands can retain as much as 94 percent of this sediment.

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CBDT cleans up land along Cedar Creek

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N-CBDT-cleanup2Throughout the week of April 11 through 16, you might have noticed that things were changing on the north side of Cedar Creek at Main Street. Undergrowth and dead trees were removed, opening up the view of Cedar Creek. Earlier this year there was an old gray house standing on the site (157 N. Main) that was torn down, paving the way for the beautification of the area.

Over the past few years, the Community Building Development Team (CBDT) has come together to promote the City of Cedar Springs and to help implement items in the Master plan that have been around for many years. With members in the community, the City Council, and assistance from HRC, the “Heart of the City” is beating strong again. Items such as the new Library, and Amphitheater are in stages of design and “soon to be” construction, with other projects being prepared, such as a pathway, boardwalk, and pedestrian bridges along Cedar Creek (to be called the “Fishing Line”); a Veterans Clock Tower; a community center; and a recreational center.

These exciting projects led to the effort put forth by the many volunteers to clean-up the properties where these new projects are planned to be constructed. On Saturday, April 16, women from the Aquinas College women’s hockey team, several employees of Hubbell, Roth & Clark Inc. (HRC), as well as many members of the Cedar Springs Community, joined forces to drag the brush, logs, and trash into piles that will be disposed of, leaving a lovely area for residents of the Cedar Springs community to enjoy.

John Ensley, with HRC, the engineering firm that the CBDT has hired to accomplish the engineering needs of the amphitheater, as well as the site plans for the entire area, was the chairperson for the cleanup effort. John shared, “Like most people involved with the CBDT, I grew up in this community. When the opportunity came about to help improve the area, I decided it was time to give some more back. Once you are involved, and able to see all that is happening, the atmosphere becomes intoxicating and you just want to do more. There are some great things happening in Cedar Springs, and the best part is that it doesn’t come from just one person. The community is making the decisions on what they want and how to build their own community.”

Clearing was also completed on land recently purchased from the Sommers that runs along Cedar Creek and the White Pine Trail through to Pine Street. This land will provide a walking trail/boardwalk along Cedar Creek between Main St. and the White Pine Trail.  The planned boardwalk and pathway will eventually continue from North Park where it will tie into 17 Mile Road, linking the north end of the historic downtown area with the 131 corridor businesses.

More information about the progress on the CBDT projects can be found at www.cscommunitycenter.org or on the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Cedar-Springs-Community-Building-Development-Team-353617661444365/

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Road construction on US-131

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Residents traveling south on US-131 this week have likely been in the middle of a traffic jam due to road construction in the Grand Rapids area. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s website, the construction isn’t going away any time soon.

According to their website: “Lane closures for road work will remain in place through early July on southbound US-131 between West River Drive and Pearl Street.  Double-lane closures will be in effect on some weekends.

The on ramp from Turner Avenue (just north of Ann Street) to southbound  US-131 remains closed through July 7.

The off ramp from southbound US-131 to Leonard Street remains closed through July 7.”

Details on construction on southbound US-131 from Ann St. to Pearl St. are below.

What is being done?

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will resurface and make concrete joint repairs on southbound US-131 from Ann Street to Pearl Street in Grand Rapids.

This project will include:

*Constructing a connector lane to join the interchanges of Ann Street and Leonard Street on southbound US-131.This will mirror what was constructed in 2013 on northbound US-131 connecting Leonard Street to Ann Street; and Bridge improvements on southbound US-131 over Richmond Street and Indian Mill Creek/Grand Rapids Eastern Railroad will include widening, deck replacement, and substructure work.

How will traffic be affected?

Lane closures will be used throughout the project on US-131. Some local roads will be closed and detoured.

The following ramps will be closed during different stages of the project:

  • The Turner Avenue (just north of Ann Street) ramp to southbound US-131;
  • The southbound US-131 ramp to Leonard Street;
  • The eastbound I-196 ramp to southbound US-131; and
  • The southbound US-131 ramp to Pearl Street.

Throughout the duration of the project, a double lane closure will be in place on the weekends from W. River Dr. to Pearl Street, and a single lane closure will be in place weekdays from W. River Dr. to Leonard Street.

The Turner Ave on-ramp (just north of Ann Street) will be closed until mid-July.  The southbound US-131 off-ramp to Leonard Street will be closed until mid-July.

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Three charged with felonies in Flint water crisis 

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton joined Special Counsel Todd Flood and Chief Investigator Andy Arena in announcing charges. “Today’s charges are a beginning, not an end.” 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Wednesday, April 20, that he filed a total of 13 felony charges and 5 misdemeanor charges against two state officials and one city official as a result of their actions in the Flint water contamination crisis currently gripping the city.

“What happened here in Flint is a tragedy,” said Schuette, “and we will continue to investigate all information that comes our way. This is not something I take lightly.”

Charges were filed Wednesday morning in the Genesee County 67th District Court in Flint against the following three individuals:

Stephen Busch, 40, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality District 8 Water Supervisor (3 felonies, 2 misdemeanor);

Michael Prysby, 53, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality District 8 Water Engineer (4 felonies, 2 misdemeanor); and

Michael Glasgow, 40, City of Flint Laboratory and Water Quality Supervisor (1 felony, 1 misdemeanor).

“The justice system in Michigan is not rigged,” said Schuette. “Anyone that says Michigan has a wink and nod justice system is wrong. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, if you break the law there will be consequences.”

The maximum sentences for each of the felonies, which are summarized below, range from 4-5 years in prison, with fines for each in a range between $5,000-$10,000.

“So many things went so terribly wrong in Flint. I made a decision that I must investigate what went wrong. It is my job as Attorney General to protect the citizens of Michigan. The citizens of Flint deserve that, the citizens of Michigan deserve that. This investigation is ongoing, it is broad, detailed and comprehensive.”

The charges are the first announced as a result of Schuette’s investigation into the crisis, which is being conducted by Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, Chief Investigator Andy Arena, and Deputy Chief Investigator Ellis Stafford. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton is also working with Schuette on the investigation and joined Schuette in Flint for Wednesday’s announcement.

“We are working closely together on this investigation because the people of Flint deserve nothing less than the truth and we will keep working until we get to the bottom of this,” said Leyton.

The charges against DEQ workers Busch and Prysby include:

Count 1 Common law offenses – Misconduct in office 

It is alleged that between February 2015 and November 2015, they committed misconduct in office, an indictable offense at common law, by willfully and knowingly misleading federal regulatory officials in the Environmental Protection Agency, including, but not limited to, Miguel Del Toral, and/or Genesee County Health Department officials, including, but not limited to, James Henry, in violation of his duty to provide clean and safe drinking water to the citizens of the County of Genesee, State of Michigan and to protect the public health; contrary to MCL 750.505. It is a felony punishable by 5 Years in prison and/or $10,000.00.

Count 3 Conspiracy – Tampering with evidence 

It is alleged that defendants on or about January 2015, through November 2015, defendants did unlawfully conspire, combine, confederate and agree together with persons, both known and unknown to the People of the State of Michigan, to commit an offense prohibited by law, to wit: Tampering with Evidence, including but not limited to manipulating monitoring reports mandated by law; contrary to MCL 750.157a. It is a felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison and/or $10,000.00.

Count 4– Tampering with evidence 

It is alleged that defendants did knowingly and intentionally remove, alter, conceal, destroy, or otherwise tamper with evidence, to wit: reports entitled “Lead and Copper Report and Consumer Notice of Lead Result” dated February 27, 2015 and/or July 28, 2015 and/or August 20, 2015; contrary to MCL 750.483a(6)(a). It is a felony punishable by 4 years in prison and/or $5,000.00.

Count 5– Treatment violation – Michigan safe drinking water act 

It is alleged that defendants did cease the utilization of optimal corrosion control treatment at the Flint Water Treatment Plant after the Plant switched to the Flint River as a water source and/or did refuse to mandate optimized corrosion control treatment at the Flint Water Treatment Plant in a timely manner after the lead action level was exceeded; contrary to MCL

325.1001. It is a misdemeanor punishable by 1 year and/or $5,000.00 for each day of violation.

Count 6 – Monitoring violation – Michigan safe drinking water act 

It is alleged that defendants did improperly manipulate the collection of water samples by directing residents to “pre-flush” their taps by

running the water for five minutes the night before drawing a water sample and/or did fail to collect required samples included in the Tier 1 category of serviced lines and/or did remove test results from samples to be included in the Lead and Copper Report and Consumer Notice of Lead Result; contrary to MCL 325.1001.  This is a misdemeanor punishable by 1 year and/or $5,000.00 for each day of violation.

Michael Prysby was also charged with:

Count 2 Common law offenses – Misconduct in office 

It is alleged that the defendant did, on or about April 4, 2014, commit misconduct in office, an indictable offense at common law, by authorizing a permit to the Flint Water Treatment Plant knowing the Flint Water Treatment Plant was deficient in its ability to provide clean and safe drinking water for the citizens of the County of Genesee, State of Michigan; contrary to MCL 750.505.  This a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and/or $10,000.00.

Charges against Flint water employee Michael Glasgow include:

Count 7 – Tampering with evidence 

It is alleged that defendant did knowingly and intentionally remove, alter, conceal, destroy, or otherwise tamper with evidence to be offered in an official proceeding, to wit: the report entitled “Lead and Copper Report and Consumer Notice of Lead Result” dated February 27, 2015 and/or July 28, 2015 and/or August 20, 2015; contrary to MCL 750.483a(6)(a). This is a felony punishable by 4 years and/or $5,000.00.

Count 8 – Willful neglect of duty 

It is alleged that defendant did willfully neglect to perform a duty enjoined upon him by the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, to wit: by failing to perform the duties of an F-1 Certified Operator employed by the Flint Water Treatment Plant; contrary to MCL 750.478. This is a misdemeanor punishable by 1 year and/or $1,000.00.

Schuette noted the investigation remains fully active and that the charges filed do not preclude additional charges at a later date.

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