Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings questioned Thursday whether Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gave false testimony when he told Congress last month he was working with local officials to address the Flint water crisis.
Cummings wrote in a sharply worded letter that, contrary to Snyder’s sworn testimony during a March 17 Oversight Committee hearing, Snyder had instead excluded Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and other local officials from development of his administration’s official plan to provide clean water to Flint residents, who have been unable to use their tap water for months.
“Your actions raise grave concerns about the accuracy of your testimony,” wrote Cummings, who is the lead Democrat on the congressional committee.
Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said the governor’s administration is in, “near daily contact with the Mayor and her key staff,” and that top staffers were in a meeting with the city council president and vice president when the letter arrived.
“We received the letter almost simultaneously with the media, which hints at political finger-pointing rather than real problem solving,” he said.
Cummings and other congressional Democrats have repeatedly blamed Snyder for the decisions that resulted in exposing as many as 9,000 children and tens of thousands of adults to lead in their drinking water in 2014 and 2015.
Republicans, however, have saved their harshest criticism for the Environmental Protection Agency and commended Snyder for his recent actions. Snyder apologized to the residents of Flint in December and has released hundreds of pages of internal documents to the public.
Cummings says that Snyder testified under oath at 9:30 a.m. on March 17 that his administration was fully cooperating with Weaver. Cummings said the committee has obtained documents showing that Snyder “withheld information” from Weaver until 7:12 p.m that day.
It is unclear which documents Cummings is referring to in the letter, but he wrote that Snyder’s top aide, Richard Baird, sent an email informing Weaver that his administration would be releasing its 75-point plan to address the crisis in the coming days and proposed a quote for Weaver in the draft press release.
Weaver told the committee that Snyder didn’t seek input from her before he testified, and that his administration had excluded her, Flint City Council members and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., from meetings about the governor’s plan for weeks beforehand, Cummings wrote. Kildee’s district includes Flint, and he has been among the most vocal critics of the governor’s response in Congress.
As a result, Cummings said, the governor’s plan failed to address some of the city’s most pressing problems, which include replacing the city’s lead pipes, providing proper anti-corrosion measures for existing pipes, introducing comprehensive tests for residents’ water and reversing staff cuts at the city’s water treatment facility.
Cummings also said that Snyder had blocked the congressional investigation by allowing members of his staff to ignore requests to provide documents and participate in transcribed hearings.
“You claimed you were working with local leaders rather than marginalizing them, and you claimed you were being transparent, cooperating fully with Congress, and holding your employees accountable for their actions,” wrote Cummings.
“Rather than learning these lessons, it appears that you are perpetuating the same type of heavy-handed, deficient governance that caused this disaster in the first place.”
Adler, Snyder’s spokesman, said the governor’s office needs to review all the, “content and questions,” before responding.
“We will continue our efforts to ensure an open line of communication continues to be available in both directions between the state and the city as the state works on delivering more than $232 million in state resources that Gov. Snyder has proposed as part of his efforts to solve problems in Flint,” he said.