In response to a Great Lakes Beacon request for comment, the Attorney General’s office appears to be trying to create evidence to support its claim that a memo by Schuette’s director of public affairs was public, despite evidence to the contrary.
The Great Lakes Beacon was able to track in real-time when changes were made to the supposed public document and found the posting and editing of the document in question all happened within the timeframe the Beacon was seeking answers to its questions.
The Beacon sought comment from Schuette’s office regarding one of his staffers using private email to send a memo around to a list of unknown recipients. The email detailed Schuette’s latest Flint Water Crisis investigation charges and was sent during business hours.
Earlier Monday, at 11:34 a.m., the Great Lakes Beacon called Schuette’s office and left a message for comment for Rusty Hills and/or Andrea Bitely detailing the memo, what it contained and when it was sent. At 12:05 p.m., the Great Lakes Beacon requested comment via email directly from Bitely and Hills.
Bitely responded at 1:24 p.m. via email. “The memo you are referring to is a public memo shared as a supplementary explanation of the AG’s announcement Wednesday,” she wrote. “As such, I am happy to provide you with a link to where this is housed on the Department website (link to pdf provided), alongside the press releases, report and other public documents here: (link to Flint-related materials provided).”
But a metadata analysis of the PDF link provided shows the page was created on Monday at approximately 12:49 p.m. by Beth Nurenberg, who appears to be an analyst for the Department of Attorney General.
That means a reproduction of Hills’ memo was created and posted merely 25 minutes prior to Bitely’s response, and nearly an hour and half after the Beacon first requested comment.
Upon the discovery of the Monday creation of the document, the Beacon responded, via e-mail at 1:31 p.m., to Bitely with more questions regarding when the document was posted online at the address provided and why Hills was using a personal e-mail in the first place, as well as a request for the recipients of the e-mail that Bitely said was a “public memo.” Bitely has not yet responded.
The multiple webpages leading to the document in question appear to have been modified throughout the Beacon’s attempted discussion with the AG’s office.
There was an intermediary page with a link to the actual PDF of Hills’ memo, which when first viewed said “memo to interested parties” and was timestamped in the metadata as Monday, June 19, 2017, at 1:12 p.m. It then reverted back to “letter to interested parties” with a metadata timestamp of Monday, June 19, 2017, at 1:03 p.m. It has since reverted back to “memo.” Documents have also been provided to support these claims.
The Beacon will provide further updates as warranted.
By Danielle Emerson