Cummings: Rushing to close Flint probe ‘inconceivable’

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — In response to new criminal charges filed in connection with the Flint water crisis Tuesday, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee renewed his call for a subpoena for Gov. Rick Snyder’s records and blasted the panel’s chair for “prematurely” closing its probe.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s ranking member, said it was “inconceivable” that the committee rushed to close its investigation just days earlier, while documents that the panel sought from Snyder’s administration remain outstanding.

“Gov. Snyder appointed the two emergency managers charged today, and it is beyond irresponsible for the committee to close its investigation without demanding full accountability and transparency from him,” Cummings said. “The families of Flint deserve no less.”

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced criminal charges Tuesday morning against two former emergency managers appointed by Snyder and two former Flint public works officials.

Former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose are being targeted for misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty, as well as charges of false pretense and conspiracy to commit false pretense.

Former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft and his subordinate, Daugherty Johnson, also face charges of false pretense and conspiracy.

Criminal charges already are pending against nine other government workers. Several current and former state employees face criminal charges for their alleged roles in the city’s water crisis. All face charges centering on an alleged failure to perform their roles in protecting public health.

Cummings on Friday called on Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah to subpoena Snyder for documents related to the committee’s investigation, saying the Snyder administration has obstructed the panel’s work.

Cummings wrote in a letter that Snyder has refused to provide or search for key documents requested by Chaffetz, and so it is “still unable to answer critical questions about what the governor knew about the crisis as it unfolded, why he did not act on concerns about water quality, even while his inner circle sounded repeated alarms, and why families in Flint continue to subsist on bottled water almost a year after he declared an emergency.”

Snyder’s office says it provided the committee with hundreds of thousands of pages of records and “complied fully,” and that it would be unproductive to engage in “partisan political attacks from out-of-state politicians.”

“Our focus remains on continuing Flint’s full recovery with funding for pipe replacement and health care for residents,” Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said in a statement.

The committee says it has received only documents that the Snyder administration has produced for other investigations led by the FBI and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, and not what it has requested, a spokeswoman for Democratic staff said.

Cummings was also critical of Snyder earlier this year, saying 15 past and current members of his administration refused requests to sit for interviews or provide documents. He raised the issue in March when Snyder testified before the committee.

Cummings’s letter Friday said that, in multiple conversations with committee staff from both sides, Snyder’s attorneys have “defied” requests for documents and refused to conduct searches requested by the committee.

“They have repeatedly delayed responding to the committee, and they have treated the committee’s requests as an afterthought that they respond to only after addressing other inquiries that they view as higher priorities,” Cummings wrote.

Chaffetz last week blamed “significant problems” at Snyder’s Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and “unacceptable delays” at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing the City of Flint and exacerbating the lead contamination of the drinking water system.

A spokeswoman for Chaffetz declined comment Tuesday.

Staff writers Jim Lynch and Jennifer Chambers contributed

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