Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder may soon face another subpoena for documents related to the manmade Flint water crisis, but some in the beleaguered city fear he may not comply—again.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter this week to Chairman Trey Gowdy asking him to subpoena Snyder to make him comply with the bipartisan request for documents, including those connected to the governor’s awareness of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint related to the water crisis.
“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 stated in the letter. “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.”
Cummings issued a similar missive last December. Snyder has refused to comply with the committee’s February subpoena, and some Flint activists, who have lost faith in city and state leadership, doubt he can be forced with another.
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Snyder is not going to comply, Flint activist and mayoral candidate Arthur Woodson told Rewire, adding he doesn’t think Snyder cares about the city’s residents. Flint is a largely Black and low-income city of 100,000, among the poorest in the United States.
“Those documents must show something he doesn’t want anyone to see,” Woodson said.
“The crime came in the cover up. We were telling them the water is bad from the start. Snyder is guilty of knowing what happened” and withholding critical information, he said.
The investigation into Flint’s three-year water problem has been riddled with apparent deception, and the Republican governor has borne the blame for it.
Snyder has dodged questions about when he learned of the dangerous levels of lead tainting Flint’s tap water. This month, one of his aides contradicted the governor’s account as to when he learned of the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that caused at least 12 deaths in Flint. Snyder testified that he learned of the Legionnaire’s outbreak in January 2016. But his top aide, Harvey Hollins III, testified in court that he told Snyder about it weeks earlier. Snyder stands by his original testimony, the Detroit Free Press reported.
As Cummings pushes for another subpoena, he wants committee members to debate and vote on the motion if the chairman will not do so, the letter states.
Some hope the subpoena will force Snyder to bring some transparency to the Flint investigation, which has so far led to the charging of six top state officials with involuntary manslaughter tied to the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
Flint activist Florlisa Stebbins told Rewire she thinks it’s “highly likely” Snyder will be subpoenaed. She believes a subpoena is necessary to “pry the evidence” to establish the true timeline of his knowledge of events.
“If the time between the governor’s knowledge of Legionnaire’s and the timeframe he testified he first knew of the outbreak of the Legionnaire’s is different, he could be in contempt at the very least for lying under oath to the congressional committee,” she said.
If the evidence shows he lied, there could be serious penalties, Stebbins added.
As politicians drag their feet and Flint remains without clean water or a viable workaround three years into the water crisis, Woodson pointed out that residents continue to battle lead poisoning, water shutoffs, skyrocketing water rates, and liens on their property for not being able to pay for their poisoned water.
State officials knew Flint residents were being poisoned long before they admitted it, he said.
“The narrative isn’t that they were trying to save money, the narrative is that they never had the equipment to put [the anti-corrosion agent] in the water,” he said.