U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a leading figure in obtaining federal relief for his hometown in the wake of the Flint water crisis, is calling on his colleagues in Congress to hold Governor Rick Snyder accountable for possibly lying under oath.
On Friday afternoon, Gongwer News Service, a Lansing-based political newsletter, broke the news that Harvey Hollins, Snyder’s director of the Michigan Office of Urban Initiatives, testified that Snyder knew about Flint-area outbreaks of Legionnaires’ Disease in December 2015 after the two had discussed the matter on a phone call.
That discovery runs contrary to what Snyder told the U.S. House Oversight Committee last year about when and what he knew of instances of Legionnaires’ Disease.
Specifically, Snyder told Congress, “As soon as I became aware of it, we held a press conference the next day.” That press conference was held on January 13, 2016.
“Mr. Hollins’ testimony raises concerning questions about the Governor’s statements that need to be answered. I have already spoken to the Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, and asked that the committee immediately look into these conflicting statements,” Kildee said in a statement about Hollins’ revelation. “I am confident that the committee will look into this matter right away and get to the truth.”
It was not immediately clear yet how the congressional committee would move forward, but they could very well decide to reconvene and bring Snyder in for additional questioning, at the least.
Also unclear yet is what civil or criminal implications could arise if Snyder indeed lied under oath to the committee. He could be held in contempt, though what happens after that would be determined by the congressional committee.
“People have to tell the truth when they testify before Congress,” Kildee said. “No one is above the law and misleading Congress is a very serious offense.”
Hollins, for his part, broke the news while answering questions in a preliminary exam for state Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon held at the 67th District Court in Flint. Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged Lyon with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, but he has not charged Snyder on anything despite that some would argue the vagueness of charges against Lyon could be applied to other high-ranking officials.
Lyon is the highest-ranking official that Schuette has gone after to this point in his investigation of how the events of the Flint water crisis unfolded and when.
Numerous people from both sides of the aisle had attacked Schuette after his announcement of the charges against Lyon, including Snyder, defending Lyon’s tenure. The governor also took what was seen as a swipe against Schuette in that same statement, saying, “Some state employees were charged over a year ago and have been suspended from work since that time. They still have not had their day in court. That is not justice for Flint nor for those who have been charged.”
That statement came at a time when Schuette was expected to be the top competition for Lt. Governor Brian Calley in each man’s bid for the Republican nomination for governor next year. Schuette has indeed recently announced for governor, while Calley has not.
Beyond the investigation and who has been charged versus those who have not is the residents of Flint, the majority of whom still do not have clean water to use because their pipes have not yet been replaced. While the city of Flint has been working feverishly to replace the pipes with the help of state and federal money secured by area representatives like Kildee and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), best case scenario expectations are that the entire city’s pipes will not be completely replaced until at least 2020.