Gov. Rick Snyder contradicted himself under oath, congressman says

 Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is facing lawsuits and angry calls for his resignation over the Flint water crisis.

Story highlights

  • Gov. Rick Snyder testified in March before a congressional panel on the Flint water crisis
  • In a letter, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings expresses "grave concerns about the accuracy" some claims by Snyder
  • Snyder spokesman accuses Cummings of "political finger-pointing"

(CNN)The top Democrat on a congressional panel looking into the Flint water crisis has accused Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder of contradictory testimony under oath and "perpetuating the same type of heavy-handed, deficient governance that caused this disaster in the first place."

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said in a letter to Snyder that the governor's March 17 testimony claiming to work "with local leaders rather than marginalizing them" in response to the crisis appeared to "directly contradict" his actions.
    The ranking member of the House Oversight Committee has been no friend to Snyder, previously calling his administration "vindictive" and accusing it of "utter incompetence."
    But Thursday's strongly worded letter went a step further, expressing "grave concerns about the accuracy" of the Republican governor's claims that he consulted Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and other local officials about his action plan for the contaminated water problem.
    "Your continued refusal to engage in real consultation with the elected leaders of Flint is bewildering, and it contradicts one of the key lessons of your own task force," Cummings wrote in the nine-page letter.

    'Political finger-pointing'

    Cummings vowed an investigation and requested that Snyder "produce all emails, communications, and other documents relating to how you and your staff planned, developed and released your 75 point plan, including your internal discussions about how and when to involve Mayor Weaver and others in the process."
    Snyder's spokesman, Ari Adler, in a statement said the letter hinted at "political finger-pointing rather than real problem solving."
    "We still need to review all of the content and questions before we can respond to Congressman Cummings," the statement said.
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    Adler said the administration is in "near daily contact" with Weaver and her staff about efforts to help Flint.
    "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," Adler said.
    Cummings requested a joint meeting next week in Michigan with Snyder, Weaver and other elected officials.
    Adler said Snyder had extended an invitation to Cummings and "still open to meeting with the Congressman in Flint."

    'Heavy-handed, deficient governance'

    Snyder's testimony last month had been long awaited by Democrats on oversight committee, and by hundreds of Flint residents who showed up to both watch and protest -- many of them calling for the governor to step down.
    The crisis sprang from government officials' decision in April 2014 to switch the city's water source temporarily and use water from the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure. Corrosive water from the Flint River leached lead into the city's drinking supply.
    The city switched back to the Lake Huron water supply a year and a half later, but the damage was already done.
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    In his letter, Cummings said documents obtained by the committee appear to show that while Snyder delivered his sworn testimony in Washington, his aides worked behind the scenes on a crisis plan they initially withheld from local officials.
    The letter said the administration "did not seek input" from Weaver as the plan was drawn up and excluded her from meetings with state officials.
    "As Mayor Weaver stated, 'Governor Snyder continues to ignore me, my administration, and the residents of Flint,' " Cummings wrote.
    The congressman added, "You testified that you wanted to learn the lessons of the Flint water crisis caused by your administration. ... Rather than learning the lessons, it appears that you are perpetuating the same type of heavy-handed, deficient governance that caused this disaster in the first place."
    In response, Adler said, "I can't speak to what the congressman knows or doesn't know."

    Michigan hit with another lawsuit

    The Oversight Committee has previously asked the U.S. attorney general to investigate whether people who gave contradictory testimony before the panel should be criminally prosecuted for making false statements to Congress.
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    Cummings' letter comes one day after a federal racketeering lawsuit against Snyder and other state officials was filed by hundreds of Flint residents -- the latest of more than a dozen on behalf of aggrieved residents.
    The suit alleges that Snyder "formulated an intentional overarching RICO scheme based on Flint's run of the mill fiscal problems in order to balance the books of the City of Flint by collecting $50 million dollars for water bills for toxic water from the free Flint River water source."
    Adler declined to comment on pending litigation.
    Attorneys for the state this week filed a motion seeking the dismissal of a separate class-action lawsuit against Snyder, claiming immunity under the 11th Amendment.