Snyder stands by Flint Legionnaires’ outbreak time line

Michael Gerstein

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder is standing by his testimony to Congress that he first learned about the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Flint area in January 2016, although an aide told a court under oath that Snyder learned of the problem a month earlier.

“The governor testified under oath to congress and he stands by his testimony, and if Congress has any questions or further questions for him, if we get any questions from the committee, then we’ll respond to those as we always have,” Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Tuesday.

Snyder’s office made the comment after Snyder’s urban affairs aide Harvey Hollins testified last Friday in 67th District Court in Flint that he informed the governor about the Legionnaires’ outbreak in December 2015. Hollins did not indicate what he specifically told Snyder about the Legionnaires’ cases.

Adler declined to say whether Hollins was mistaken. Adler also would not comment on a statement from U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“Based on Mr. Hollins’ reported testimony, I am deeply concerned that the Governor may have misled the Oversight Committee and the people of Flint,” Cummings said in a Friday statement. “I plan to consult with Chairman (Trey) Gowdy immediately to determine the Committee’s next steps. One thing that all members of this Committee – Democrats and Republicans – agree on is that witnesses testifying before us must tell the truth.”

Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton had a terse response for Cummings.

“We won’t be responding to political press releases,” Heaton said Wednesday. “If the full committee sends official correspondence, we would respond to that directly.”

In 2014-15, a Genesee County outbreak of the deadly form of pneumonia ended up killing 12 and sickening 79 residents. Snyder informed the public about the respiratory disease outbreak at a hastily arranged Jan. 13, 2016, press conference in Detroit.

“In terms of Legionnaires’, I didn’t learn of that until 2016,” Snyder told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on March 18, 2016. “… That was clearly a case where the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services should have done more to escalate the issue, to get it visible to the public and to me.”

When special prosecutor Todd Flood asked if he was telling the truth about talking to Snyder about the issue in December 2015, Hollins said: “I took an oath.”

Hollins’ comments came during the preliminary examination for Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, who is accused of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 85-year-old Robert Skidmore of Genesee Township and obstruction of justice by deliberately failing to warn the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee said he asked the House Oversight committee to look into the conflicting statements.

“Mr. Hollins’ testimony raises concerning questions about the governor’s statements that need to be answered,” Kildee said in a statement.

Former House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, ended the committee’ inquiry late last year. Chaffetz retired earlier this year and joined Fox News as a contributor.