Top Dem renews call for Snyder’s Flint records

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The top Democrat on the House Oversight committee wants the panel to subpoena Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to direct him to comply “in full” with the panel’s bipartisan request for documents relating to the Flint water crisis.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is particularly interested in documents relating to when Snyder became aware of concerns relating to Flint’s outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

Committee leaders this month asked Snyder about his testimony that he first learned in January 2016 about the Legionnaires’ concerns, after a top aide contradicted the Republican governor’s prior testimony.

Snyder stuck by his testimony, but that hasn’t satisfied Democrats.

“In order for our Committee to complete our investigation in a credible way, we must obtain the documents that Governor Snyder has been withholding from Congress since we first requested them on a bipartisan basis back in February 2016,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican.

“Governor Snyder has been obstructing our investigation for months, and it is now clear that the only way he will turn over the documents we asked for is if he is compelled to do so.”

The previous chairman, retired Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, ended the panel’s Flint probe in December 2016 — a move that Cummings said was premature.

On Tuesday, Cummings said he was thankful to Gowdy for agreeing to reopen the Flint investigation. A spokeswoman for Gowdy declined to comment.

“Until Flint families get the whole truth from the governor, they are right to be skeptical of state government officials who created this crisis,” U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said in a statement.

“It is important for the Oversight Committee to continue its pursuit of the truth for Flint families.”

This isn’t the first time Cummings has accused Snyder of withholding records. In January, he asked Chaffetz to subpoena key documents that he said Snyder had withheld for a year, “including evidence relating to his destruction of emails.”

Snyder’s office has said it provided the committee with tens of thousands of pages of records, in addition to documents from the state’s Attorney General, health and environmental departments. His office previously accused Cummings of partisan attacks.

“We don’t respond to political press releases, but we have cooperated fully with the requests of the full Oversight Committee, which wrapped up its work last term,” Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said Tuesday by email.

The outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, a deadly form of pneumonia, killed 12 people and sickened 79 others in Genesee County in 2014-15.

Six current and former Flint and state officials, including Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and Chief Medical Officer Eden Wells, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a Genesee Township man who got Legionnaires’.

In their letter this month, Gowdy and Cummings described a “discrepancy in recollection” between Snyder’s testimony before the committee last year, and statements in court a few weeks ago from Snyder’s urban affairs aide Harvey Hollins, who testified that he informed Snyder of the outbreak in December 2015.

The committee asked Snyder to supply any additional relevant information he has regarding the date he first learned about the Legionnaires’ illnesses, offering him the chance to amend or supplement his testimony.

Snyder refused in a letter that same day.

“My testimony was truthful and I stand by it,” Snyder wrote to Gowdy and Cummings, adding that he does not “believe there is any reason” to offer more information, although he “will continue to fully cooperate.”

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