This post has been updated below.
Transparency was something Gov. Rick Snyder crowed about during his first election campaign. He issued a white paper titled “Create A Culture Of Ethics In Michigan’s Government” in which he said, “As Governor, I will ensure that government is open, fair, and accountable to the citizens by making Michigan a national leader in transparency and ethics.” All of that sounds good, of course, but he has been a demonstrable failure when it comes to transparency in his administration.
The latest blow to transparency comes, once again, in relation to the Flint water crisis. The Snyder administration has hired the firm Rowe Professional Services “to study Flint’s water distribution system and replace 30 lead service lines as a pilot project.” The contract was awarded to Rowe as a no-bid contract; no other companies were given the opportunity to bid on it.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver — already at odds over how quickly Flint’s lead service lines that carry drinking water to homes should be replaced — are also split over Snyder’s choice of an engineering firm that a state document says helped prepare the city before its botched switch to using Flint River water.
On Tuesday, Snyder announced the state had signed a no-bid contract worth up to $500,000 with Flint-based Rowe Professional Services to study Flint’s water distribution system and replace 30 lead service lines as a pilot project.
Records the state released Feb.12 say Rowe was involved in preparing Flint’s water treatment process for the city’s switch to the Flint River as its source of drinking water in April 2014.
Gov. Snyder claims that he had the blessing of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on the contract but Mayor Weaver says otherwise:
Kristin Moore, a spokeswoman for Weaver, said, “Mayor Weaver did not agree to hire Rowe,” but “it was a foregone conclusion that the governor was going to move forward with that firm, despite her concerns.”
Rowe, of course, is denying any role whatsoever in the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water with lead. The company was selected “because part of its task will be to upgrade city water-service reliability and asset management studies that it completed in years past”. In other words, it was convenient. Like Emergency Management, the convenience of getting things done without the hassle of local officials getting involved trumped local control and democracy.
Add this to the long list of ethically questionable actions by the Snyder administration when it comes to acknowledging and then dealing with the catastrophic poisoning of Flint’s drinking water with a powerful, odorless, tasteless, colorless neurotoxin.
By the way, a report out this morning shows that over 10% of Flint’s homes still have dangerous levels of lead in their tap water. Maybe some day they’ll actually start the process of replacing the lead water lines in these homes. But, as I wrote about over the weekend, they aren’t capable of multitasking. They must first determine the status of around
10,000 13,000 homes in Flint before they can begin replacing pipes in the 5,000 homes the KNOW have lead service lines. As of right now, all we have from Gov. Snyder is that the goal is to replace 30 lead service lines sometime in the next 30 days. That only leaves around 7,970 more to deal with.
It is now Day 144 since Gov. Snyder admitted to knowing about the lead problem in Flint and, since that day, not one lead water line in Flint has been replaced.
UPDATE: Gov. Snyder’s office is insisting that they had the okay from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver before awarding the no-bid contract:
Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday that Flint Mayor Karen Weaver agreed to give Rowe Professional Services a $500,000 no-bid contract to study Flint’s water system and do a preliminary sample replacement of 30 lead service lines.
Weaver was evasive last week about whether she agreed with the contract, telling The Detroit News she “was surprised” by the company’s hiring. […]
“It was signed off before we signed it,” Snyder said Monday, indicating Weaver’s administration was given as much as two weeks to study the contract before the deal was announced. “I literally said, ‘We’re not going to move forward unless the city signed off on it.” […]
During a Detroit News interview last Wednesday, Weaver wouldn’t say whether she supported or opposed Rowe’s hiring.
“I was surprised when that was the company selected,” Weaver told The Detroit News. “When the citizens heard that, they were surprised. We’ve gotten a lot of phone calls about that. That was the governor’s plan.”
When pressed about whether she approved of Rowe or not, the mayor did not state a position.