Spokesman: Gov. Snyder stands by his testimony on Flint Legionnaires'

Snyder's sworn testimony before a congressional committee was contradicted last week when a top aide, testified at a

LANSING — A spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder says the governor stands by his testimony that he didn't learn about outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area until January 2016.

Snyder's sworn testimony before a congressional committee was contradicted last week when a top aide, Harvey Hollins III, testified at a Flint court hearing that he told Snyder about the outbreaks weeks earlier, in December 2015.

But Ari Adler, a spokesman for Snyder, said the governor stands by what he told Congress in March 2016 when he testified before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington, D.C.

"The governor testified under oath to Congress, and he stands by his testimony,"  Adler said.

 

 

“As soon as I became aware of it, we held a press conference the next day,” Snyder testified. The news conference was held on Jan. 13, 2016.

Hollins testified at a preliminary examination in a Flint criminal case on Friday that he and Richard Baird, another top aide to Snyder, met with the members of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force in December 2015, shortly before Christmas, about a report the task force was working on related to the water crisis.

Hollins said that after that meeting, he talked to the governor on the phone and asked Snyder whether he was aware of the outbreaks.

“He was not aware of that,” Hollins testified that Snyder told him.

Asked whether Hollins was mistaken in the testimony he gave Friday, Adler declined to answer, saying the governor's office would not comment on any ongoing criminal cases or litigation.

Both Snyder and Hollins have been inconsistent on when the governor was told of the outbreaks.  Snyder previously said he first learned about the spike in cases "a couple days" before he announced it a news conference. Hollins earlier told the Free Press he didn't brief Snyder until January. 

The Free Press could not reach Hollins or his attorney for comment.

At least a dozen deaths have been linked to the outbreaks in Genesee County that followed the April 2014 switch of Flint's drinking water to the Flint River as a short-term cost-cutting measure while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

Congressional Democrats say that in light of Hollins' testimony, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform needs to investigate whether Snyder testified truthfully.

“I am deeply concerned that the governor may have misled the Oversight Committee and the people of Flint," said U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland.

"One thing that all members of this committee — Democrats and Republicans  — agree on is that witnesses testifying before us must tell the truth."

On Friday, Cummings said he planned to consult with the committee’s chairman, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican from South Carolina, to determine the committee's next move. 

No decision has been made on the next step, but Democratic and Republican committee staff have been in discussions, a Democratic committee staffer told the Free Press on Wednesday.

Gowdy's office did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. 

The contradictory statements have raised questions about a possible perjury charge.

Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning said the U.S. Department of Justice would be the only entity with the authority to pursue a criminal charge. Henning, a former federal prosecutor, said he doesn’t think charges would be pursued though, calling it possible, but unlikely.

“I would put the likelihood at very low,” he said.

Proving perjury is difficult, Henning explained, adding that prosecutors have to prove the defendant knew he or she was making an untruthful statement — not just that a person said something in error or told a half-truth.

Hollins' testimony Friday in 67th District Court abruptly ended after lawyers conferred privately. He was testifying in the preliminary examination of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, the highest ranking government official charged in connection with an investigation into the Flint water crisis. 

Lyon faces felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office. The hearing, which will determine whether his case proceeds to trial, is scheduled to resume Nov. 1.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com, or Elisha Anderson: 313-222-5144 or eanderson@freepress.com. Staff writer Matthew Dolan contributed to this report.

Read or Share this story: http://on.freep.com/2wO1BOw

Share on
Article Spokesman: Gov. Snyder stands by his testimony on Flint Legionnaires' compiled by www.freep.com

You might also like