The U.S. Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has sent a letter to Governor Rick Snyder requesting “any additional relevant information” concerning the date which the governor first learned of the outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Flint, but the governor quickly responded that he’s committed to what he told Congress.
“My testimony was truthful and I stand by it,” Snyder replied today to a letter from the congressional committee. “While you have offered me to clarify my sworn testimony, I do not believe there is any reason to do so.”
Snyder adds that his office has and will continue to “fully cooperate” with the committee. “In fact, my office has produced tens of thousands of pages of documents to the Committee, and the Michigan Department of Attorney General has supplemented those document productions with documents from various state departments, including the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said.
The request from the congressional committee came after the Detroit News, the Associated Press and others first reported Snyder is standing by his statement he gave during a congressional hearing on the Flint Water Crisis last year in which he, under oath, said he did not become aware of the disease outbreak until January 2016.
That information was called to question because one of Snyder’s top aides and Director of Urban Initiatives Harvey Hollins, gave testimony, also under oath, in a Flint water crisis hearing last week that he and Snyder talked about the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in December 2015.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), who quickly asked congress to look into the matter after learning of Hollins’s testimony, issued a statement upon the release of the congressional letter to the governor that he was “pleased” the Oversight Committee had taken “swift action” to look into the matter.
“I have spoken with both Chairman Gowdy and Ranking Member Cummings, and they agree misleading Congress is a very serious offense,” Kildee said in the statement. “Flint families deserve to know the truth about when the governor first learning of the Legionnaires’ outbreak. Justice for Flint families comes in many forms, including holding those in statement who created this crisis accountable.”
Indeed, the letter to Snyder is signed by the chair of the congressional committee, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), as well as the top-ranking Democrat on the committee, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.
In the letter, Snyder is reminded of the statement he gave to congress and informed of the conflicting testimony given by Hollins. Snyder is then asked to resolve the “discrepancy in recollection” and that, “If necessary, you may also choose to amend or supplement your testimony.”
In the interest of resolving the matter quickly, Snyder is asked to provide a response no later than October 25.
The letter closes with contact information as well as the definition of perjury under federal law, as well as the definition of a witness to a crime, the latter of which includes “knowing (a statement) to contain any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent” information, or if an individual “corruptly” “influences, obstructs, or impedes … due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry … being had by either House, or any committee of either House.”
Roughly a dozen people died in Flint from Legionnaire’s Disease, and hundreds more were sickened, after a Snyder-appointed emergency manager decided in April 2014 to switch Flint’s water source from its longstanding partnership with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department to instead the Flint River as cost-savings measure for the city. Though officials were at first reluctant to link the outbreak and switch in water source, the Centers for Disease Control has since been able to link the two.
It has also been raised that perhaps even more people died than the dozen people the state reported. Legionnaire’s Disease occurs when legionella bacterium often found in freshwater environments grows and spreads in human-made water systems like showers, faucets, hot water tanks and large plumbing systems, according to the CDC.