Here’s what we learned this week in the never-ending onion that is the Flint water scandal. (And make no mistake, it’s steadily moving from a “crisis” to a “scandal.”)
Harvey Hollins – a top aide to Gov. Rick Snyder and a man who is now, ironically, painfully (we need a new word that combines the two– ironifully? painically?) in charge of the state’s response to the water crisis – was told a year ago that Legionnaire’s disease was killing people in and around Flint and making others sick.
And yet he didn’t tell his boss.
Brad Wurfel, the now former director of communications for the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, wrote the email telling Hollins about the outbreak, which roughly coincided with Flint’s switch to river water.
But he apparently didn’t tell the governor either.
Dan Wyant, the now former director of Wurfel’s department and a Synder appointee, was cced on Wurfel’s email.
But did he bother to tell Snyder?
Nope. Or so we’re told by the governor’s office. Snyder has said he knew bupkis about the outbreak – at least 87 cases during a 17-month period, including nine deaths, far beyond the norm – until last month.
Why didn’t he know? Well, his staff didn’t tell him. Shrug, shrug.
“Important information flow isn’t always forthcoming,” Snyder’s chief of staff Dennis Muchmore has said by way of explanation.
That might be the biggest understatement in Michigan history. Or the biggest fib. I suspect we’re close to finding out which, especially if all emails, including those of staffers, are released. (I encourage you to read the Free Press story that talks about all this and includes some of the damn near frightening emails referenced here.)
That Snyder knew nothing strains credulity. Holy hell, how could so many people know something that big and NOT tell the boss, if for no other reason than to protect their own backsides? That just doesn’t ring true. Would that many people in your workplace not tell the boss about something that huge and fraught with peril? (“Hey, everybody, the roof’s on fire – think we should tell the big guy?” “Nah!”)
If it did happen, though – if no one throughout the entire Snyder chain of command bothered to inform the top elected official in the state – then Snyder is the worst-served chief executive ever. I mean, honestly, if sick and dying people aren’t worth telling the boss about – much less doing something about – what is?
At best, there’s a severe culture and competency problem in the Snyder administration.
At worst, there’s something much worse afoot.
Stay tuned. Like I say, I have a feeling we’re about to find out which.
My view: If Snyder ever resigns, it’ll be over the Legionnaire’s disease issue, not lead or the state’s response.