Two former state employees will face charges of reckless endangerment for what investigators describe as chronic mismanagement of a Fall River pool where the body of a drowning victim lay unseen for two days in June, shrouded in murky water.
C. Samuel Sutter, the district attorney for Bristol County, said yesterday that his office will bring criminal charges against two officials responsible for overseeing the state-run pool after a district court judge, reversing a previous court ruling, determined prosecutors had probable cause to proceed with the case.
Brian Shanahan, the former regional director for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Jeff Carter, a former district manager, will be charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. In October, an investigation into the drowning of 36-year-old Marie Joseph found “a systemic failure’’ in the pool’s operation.
The accusations, a striking example of prosecuting public workers for poor performance, mark the latest turn in a case that sparked a public outcry and raised questions about swimming pool safety and government oversight.
In September, a Globe review of state inspections found that state-run pools regularly failed water-quality tests during the past five years, but have nevertheless often been kept open.
Sutter said prosecutors concluded in the report that the men could not be charged in connection with Joseph’s drowning, but that decisions that led to the pool’s unsafe condition constituted crimes.
“A series of poor decisions, with errors compounding errors, a disregard for regulatory requirements, and a disregard for the proper standard for operating the pool pervaded multiple levels of DCR supervision and management,’’ the district attorney’s investigation found.
A lawyer representing Shanahan, Thomas Drechsler, said he and his client would take time to “examine the next step’’ following the judge’s decision.
A spokeswoman for the DCR declined to comment last night.
Joseph, who could not swim, drowned in the deep end of the pool after going down a slide. Investigators determined it took just seconds for her to sink.
Because of the murkiness of the water, Joseph may not have known how deep the water was beneath the slide.
“At this time, the clarity of the water in the deep end of the pool was practically opaque,’’ the district attorney’s report found.
A Haitian immigrant who worked as a housekeeper, Joseph had gone to the pool with a large group. When they left the pool, they assumed she had already gone home.
Several other public employees lost their jobs after the drowning, including a city health inspector who approved the pool for use while Joseph’s body was still at the bottom. He noted the water was cloudy, but did not recommend that the pool close.
In the days before the pool opened for the summer, Carter ordered workers not to chlorinate or filter the pool in an apparent effort to save money, the report found. Over time, the pool became “essentially a swamp,’’ the report said.
Investigators found that two members of the pool staff complained to Carter, but he “refused to reconsider his decision.’’ Carter, who could not be reached for comment last night, later acknowledged to investigators that he told staff not to chlorinate or filter the water. He did so because he had determined, after consulting Shanahan, that there was no need to pump chemicals into the pool while it was not open, according to the report.
Only after a regional supervisor complained about the “pea-soup green’’ water did Carter agree to chemically treat the pool.
When the pool opened for the summer June 25, it was still cloudy. The next day, managers closed the pool’s deep end at 3:30 p.m., 15 minutes after Joseph had drowned.
As Joseph’s body lay on the bottom of the pool, staff reported no problems.
“Good opening weekend,’’ a DCR operations report stated. “No incidents or issues reported, and facility looks great.’’
Arraignments for the two men, who have resigned, have not been scheduled.
Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobePete.