Since Attorney General Bill Schuette announced involuntary manslaughter charges against Nick Lyon and obstruction of justice and lying to a law enforcement officer charges against Eden Wells, I have struggled to reconcile my knowledge of and experience with these individuals to the actions that they are alleged to have committed.
As the Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health, now the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, I hired Nick Lyon. He worked diligently as one of my deputies and a member of my executive team for over seven years.
We worked together daily during that time, giving me the opportunity to develop a sound measure of this man. Nick has spent his entire career in state government, dedicated to serving the people of this state. He is a dedicated public servant who demonstrated integrity, honesty and sound judgment throughout our years together. I know that he would never knowingly or with malice act or withhold action to harm the residents of Flint or any other community in Michigan.
Janet Olszewski was director of the Michigan Department of Community Health from 2003-2010. She is a senior fellow at the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
Dr. Eden Wells served as a medical epidemiologist and a medical consultant to the Department of Community Health during my years as Director. Her responsibilities to prepare for and respond to public health incidents and crises brought us together frequently, particularly during the H1N1 (Swine Flu) epidemic.
She is a very competent and knowledgeable public health physician who, like Nick, demonstrated honesty, integrity and dedication to the citizens of Michigan. Eden came to the Department because she is passionate about public health and felt that this was where she could do the most good. As a physician, Eden lives by the medical profession’s credo of “first do no harm” and would never knowingly act against this fundamental rule.
The Flint Water Crisis should never have happened, but it did. Every day the people of Flint still struggle with its effects. We must all do everything we can to make sure that the water is safe and that the families and children get the support and care that they need. We must also work very hard to assure that any mistakes made in that situation never happen again.
Protecting the public’s health is a central tenet of the Michigan Constitution. Doing so requires an environment that supports complex coordination of multiple state local and federal partners, access to an analysis of critical data and constant communication. The tenor of this investigation and the charges filed creates an environment of fear and scapegoating that takes us in the opposite direction, a direction in which we all lose.