Snyder visits House Oversight leaders before hearing
Washington — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder visited separately Wednesday with two key congressional leaders before his Thursday congressional testimony on the Flint water crisis, as Democrats complained that some of his staffers aren’t cooperating with Congress.
Aides on the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform confirmed the Republican governor met with committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who lobbied for Snyder to appear before Congress.
Snyder’s office wouldn’t talk about his Wednesday schedule in Washington, D.C.
The meetings came as congressional Democrats said 15 staffers and advisers to Snyder have refused requests to be interviewed or turn over records related to the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint.
Among those refusing to cooperate are Snyder’s former chief of staff Dennis Muchmore; John Walsh, Snyder’s strategy director; Dick Posthumus, legislative director; Richard Baird, transformation manager; Harvey Hollins, director of urban and metropolitan initiatives; State Deputy Treasurer Wayne Workman; Matthew Davis, former chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; and Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s current chief medical executive.
Also on the list are state health department director Nick Lyon; former state Treasurer Andy Dillon; former Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel; Jim Sygo, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; Brad Wurfel, former spokesman for the Michigan DEQ; Liane Shekter Smith, former head of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance at Michigan DEQ; as well as DEQ District Engineer Michael Prysby.
Cummings and Democratic U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Interior, sent a letter Wednesday to Snyder asking that he direct the 15 current and former state officials to participate in transcribed interviews and produce documents in their possession relating to the Flint water crisis.
“Their refusals directly contradict your multiple promises of transparency and accountability to the people of Flint, and they obstruct the ability of Congress to adequately investigate this crisis,” Cummings and Lawrence wrote to Snyder.
“We have bent over backwards to address every argument these officials put forward over the past month to avoid cooperating with our requests, and we have made multiple offers to accommodate them.”
They said Snyder “clearly” has the authority to direct current state officials to cooperate and can encourage former employees to participate. “We have seen no evidence that you have taken either step,” Cummings and Lawrence wrote.
Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Wednesday the governor’s office has been “cooperating fully with the congressional committee’s investigation and encourages others to do the same.”
Adler noted that the office released tens of thousands of pages of documents and emails related to the Flint crisis, and that state departments will be releasing more once they are collected.
Muchmore, who left Snyder’s office in January, said Wednesday the congressional Democrats wanted a telephone interview that could be recorded and transcribed.
Muchmore said he refused the request because he no longer has access to his governor’s office emails and calendar to refresh his memory about the events that transpired over a period of two years.
“Nobody’s going to do that, not with the situation as it stands now,” he told The Detroit News. “I’m not going to sit in like I’m in some inquisition deal and give transcribed answers that somebody’s going to use against me.”
Muchmore said he is getting legal representation from the Attorney General’s Office for his time as Snyder’s chief of staff.
Cummings and Lawrence said the state Attorney General’s office, which represents 12 of the named individuals, objected to their request for the individuals to appear for transcribed interviews in Washington or to conduct the interviews by phone.
Cummings responded by offering to start with just two officials, Muchmore and Baird, by sending staff to Michigan to conduct in-person interviews.
The AG’s Office declined that offer, later offering to have the pair meet with committee staff on the condition that there be no transcript of the meeting, according to the committee.
Private attorneys representing three other state officials — Brad Wurfel, Prysby and Shekter Smith –– have also not cooperated, according to committee Democrats.