Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan was criticized by Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland during a House committee hearing on March 17 regarding the water crisis in Flint, Michigan (video below).
“There is no doubt in my mind that if a corporate CEO did what Governor Snyder’s administration has done, he would be hauled up on criminal charges,” Cummings said, according to Raw Story.
He added that the Michigan State Attorney General's Office has launched an investigation into the Flint water crisis.
Snyder has maintained that he was not fully aware of the water crisis until September 2015.
But Cummings referred to Snyder's then-legal counsel, Michael Gadola, who sent an email in October 2014 to Snyder's top aides which stated that Flint "should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control,” the Detroit Free Press reported.
The email was in reference to Flint getting back into the Detroit water system, which the Flint city manager, appointed by Snyder, chose to leave as a water source in April 2014 for the polluted Flint River.
Snyder eventually switched Flint back to Detroit's water supply in October 2015 for about $12 million.
Cummings mentioned an email from Snyder's then-Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore from March 2015 which stated, "If we procrastinate any longer in doing something direct, we'll have real trouble."
Cummings mentioned another email from Muchmore from July 2015 which warned that Flint residents were "concerned and rightfully so about the lead level studies they are receiving. They are basically getting blown off by us."
“There will now be an entire generation, an entire generation of children who suffer from brain damage, learning disabilities, and many other horrible effects of lead poisoning that were afflicted on them by Gov. Snyder’s administration,” Cummings said during the hearing.
Cummings later asked Snyder if he saw an email that was sent in October 2014 by a top advisor (Valerie Brader, deputy legal counsel and senior policy adviser) to Muchmore and other top aides which called for switching Flint's water back to the Detroit’s system, describing it as an "urgent matter to fix."
Snyder said he could not recall if Muchmore told him about what Brader wrote, and said he did not see Brader's email.
"I recall during that time period, we had issues," Snyder said. "And I got briefings, and we discussed issues about color and odor of the water. There was also a concern about E-coli. There were several issues, but none of them were related to lead."
Snyder repeatedly said that he could not recall specific discussions about the Flint water with his staff, but did recall "ongoing discussions."
Cummings also mentioned that Muchmore complained about the "lack of empathy" for the Flint community in an email; Snyder told Cummings that he had "continuing dialogues" with Muchmore, and said that government officials were wrong about water testing results in the small town.
“It seems like there are two basic possibilities: Either your chief of staff told you about these concerns and you did nothing, or he didn’t tell you and you are an absentee governor,” Cummings told Snyder.