Top House Oversight Dem accuses Snyder of contradiction

Chad Livengood and Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

The top Democrat on the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee accused Gov. Rick Snyder Thursday of making contradictory testimony before the panel about his administration’s cooperation with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in the city’s water contamination crisis.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said in a letter to Snyder that Weaver not being consulted about the governor’s new action plan for fixing the city’s tainted water was evidence of a contradiction to Snyder’s sworn March 17 testimony to the committee.

“Your continued refusal to engage in real consultation with the elected leaders of Flint is bewildering, and it contradicts one of the key lessons of your own task force,” Cummings wrote in a nine-page letter sent Thursday to Snyder.

“As a result, your 75 point plan looks more like a press release than a substantive or collaborative approach, and it fails to address many of the key problems identified by Mayor Weaver and other local officials...”

Snyder said Thursday he stands by his congressional testimony.

“We’re working hard with local officials,” Snyder told reporters after a Lansing speech, pointing to regular meetings of the Flint Interagency Coordinating Committee.

As for why Weaver did not learn about his 75-point plan until the night before, Snyder said “there were opportunities for her to have that information prior to that.” He did not elaborate.

Cummings demanded the Republican governor turn over “all emails, communications and other documents relating to how you and your staff planned, developed and released” the 75-point action plan for ending Flint’s lead contamination.

During Snyder’s testimony before the committee, the governor said his administration is “working with local leaders like Mayor Karen Weaver and our representatives in Washington to deliver the assistance our citizens deserve.”

Tensions between Snyder’s office and Weaver escalated last week when Flint officials filed a notice in the Michigan Court of Claims that they may sue the state over the contamination of the city’s water, which occurred under the watch of emergency mangers appointed by Snyder.

Snyder said Thursday he continues to have “good one-on-one conversations” with Weaver and that their teams talk regularly.

“The goal has to be to work together as closely as possible to make things happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of challenges out there. You always have to work hard on good communication, and I’m committed to doing that.”

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said the governor’s office received Cummings’ letter while top gubernatorial aides were meeting with Flint’s City Council leaders as part of an effort to keep “an open line of communication” with city officials.

“There’s a lot of communication going on, and again, the way I view it is we want to be good partners,” Snyder said.

Cummings also said Snyder’s testimony that Flint’s lead pipes should removed is contradicted by the 75-point plan only calling for initially replacing 30 of the city’s thousands of lead service lines.

The congressman also chastised Snyder for not instructing top governor’s office staff to comply with requests from congressional Democrats that they participate in recorded interviews for the committee’s evidence gathering. Democrats in the minority lack the subpoena power held by the Republican majority.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, and Cummings have requested taped interviews with 15 current and former state officials, including Snyder’s former Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore, who has refused to participate.

“Contrary to your claims that you are fully cooperating with Congress, you appear to have taken no action to direct your own employees to comply with congressional requests to participate in transcribed interviews and to produce documents relating to the Flint water crisis in their possession,” Cummings wrote.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood