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State rehires doctor accused of Flint water crimes to new protected position – MLive.com

FLINT, MI — The state’s chief medical executive is facing a jury trial on Flint water crisis criminal charges including involuntary manslaughter but that hasn’t prevented her from securing a new job — one that pays well and has civil service protections.

Dr. Eden Wells has been hired to fill a new position created within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services at an annual salary of $179,672, a classified position that will afford her job protections she doesn’t currently have as chief medical executive, an unclassified — or at-will — position, a DHHS spokeswoman confirmed.

Wells was the only candidate to apply for the “advisory physician” position, which was posted for less than one week in November, according to the state.

“MDHHS determined there was a need for an advisory physician to the Population Health Administration, as we have with other administrations within the department,” spokeswoman Angela Minicuci said in an email to MLive-The Flint Journal. “The position will advise the administration on public health issues such as HIV, Hepatitis C, environmental health and more given the increasing focus on these and other public health issues in Michigan. MDHHS posted the position, and Dr. Wells was chosen for the role.”

Gov. Snyder has ‘full faith and confidence’ in Wells as criminal case advances

Wells will finish her appointment as medical executive through the remainder of the year, Minicuci said, before focusing on her new job with one of the several administrations within DHHS.

Her Dec. 2 appointment was made just five days before Genesee District Judge William Crawford bound Wells over to stand trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice and lying to a peace officer — charges related to her job performance as DHHS responded to outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in Genesee County during the Flint water crisis.

Officials at DHHS were aware of outbreaks of the disease and suspicions that the surge in cases and deaths from Legionnaires’ were related to the city’s use of Flint River water in 2014, according to testimony in preliminary examinations for Wells and other defendants who worked in state government at the time.

Despite that knowledge, no one at the agency warned the public of the outbreaks until January 2016, the same month the water crisis was recognized as a federal public health emergency.

Here’s what’s left for Flint water crisis criminal cases in 2018

Through her attorneys, Wells issued a comment to The Journal, saying she “is excited for this opportunity to continue her life’s work in public health for the people of Michigan, in collaboration with her local and state public health colleagues.”

Unlike lower level employees at DHHS and the state Department of Environmental Quality, Wells and Nick Lyon, director of DHHS, have remained on their jobs while facing criminal charges.

During that time, she has been awarded the highest individual award given by local health departments in Michigan.

Wells’ new position gives her on-the-job protections afforded to other state employees, spelling out the conditions in which she could be disciplined or dismissed as well as benefits like sick leave.

Wells wins distinguished public health award despite involuntary manslaughter charge

The shift of Wells into the new position comes as Gov. Rick Snyder is serving his final days in office. Snyder appointed Wells as the chief medical executive, but not to this new advisory physician position.

He will be replaced Jan. 1 by Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, who will be in the position to make her own appointment of a chief medical executive.

State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, called the move to retain Wells “unprecedented” given the crimes she faces in Genesee Circuit Court and a “disrespect to taxpayers across the state of Michigan.”

“Why is he giving her this protection? What is he trying to hide?” Ananich said of Snyder, who did not appoint Wells to the new position. “(It) binds the hands of the next governor. I doubt anyone facing a manslaughter charge has had that happen before.”

Snyder has previously expressed strong support for Wells, saying just last week that she would remain on the job as the state’s top public health doctor at an annual salary of $184,000 and “has my full faith and confidence.”

“Dr. Eden Wells is a strong advocate for public health and has proven many times over that she cares about what happens to the residents of this state now and well into the future,” Snyder said in a statement issued by his office after Wells was bound over to stand trial on Friday, Dec. 7.

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