This past Tuesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held the second of three hearings on the Flint water crisis. At the hearing, Republicans on the Committee tore into former EPA Region 5 administrator Susan Hedman for her role in what many see as the EPA’s delayed response in dealing with the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water with the powerful, tasteless, odorless, invisible neurotoxin lead.
Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz along with Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07) both indicated during their questioning that they had met with EPA staffer and whistleblower Miguel Del Toral and that he told them that he had been punished for a memo he written last summer, a preliminary version of which he leaked to the media.
Despite these accusations, during her testimony Hedman denied that there had been retaliation against Mr. Del Toral. She also took issue with Rep. Walberg’s assertion that she had instructed former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling to disregard the memo. Both men claimed to have spoken with Del Toral during a Congressional trip to Flint last weekend.
Here’s the segment where Rep. Walberg made the claim:
WALBERG: Ms. Hedman, in July 2015, you told Flint’s mayor to disregard Mr. Del Toral’s preliminary memo that found high levels of lead in Flint’s water supply. Why did it take another five months for the final report to come out?
HEDMAN: I never told the mayor to disregard that memo. In fact, if you look at Appendix 3 to my testimony, you’ll see what actually occurred during the conversation that I had with the mayor…
WALBERG: There’s dispute on that coming across the board.
HEDMAN: Yes, I wrote the email and I know what I said and if we could take the time to take a moment to talk about that, I think we could clear that up.
WALBERG: I’m not sure we could. Mr. Del Toral certainly has a different recollection of it, as well as responses to him. And I had the opportunity to talk with him in Flint this Saturday, as well. Very different from what we are being told here and that’s the concern.
Watch it here:
An email released yesterday and dated Wednesday, March 16, 2016 – the day following the second hearing – shows that NEITHER Chaffetz or Walberg had, in fact, had a conversation with Miguel Del Toral last weekend in Flint and that he has NOT experienced retaliation in the form of forced ethics training. The email is from Del Toral himself to Acting Regional Administrator Robert Kaplan, the man who took over for Susan Hedman following her resignation.
The email was in response this email earlier that day from Kaplan:
Thanks for calling this morning. I relayed the info about not being required to seek ethical advice and the fact that you had no contact with the members of Congress this weekend (except a handshake at the open house). The Administrator can correct the record tomorrow if we have something in writing. If not, that’s fine. As always, your call.
Here is Mr. Del Toral’s response:
I was never required by anyone to take ethics training because of Flint or for any other reason other than the mandatory ethics training required to be taken annually by all EPA employees. There is probably some confusion from the emails between Ann Coyle and myself where I was seeking advice from Ann, but that was something I requested.
On the meetings with congressional folks…the first I heard about my ‘meeting’ with Chaffetz was via an email from Nicole Cantello who forwarded an article to me which stated that I had met with him. As I told Nicole, the only time I saw him was at an open house in Flint last Saturday. I was at the corrosion control booth and he stopped by, shook my hand, we exchanged greetings, and he moved on. Same thing with Congressman Walberg. Hi and bye.
You can read the entire email HERE.
So, in a Republican effort to smear the EPA – something that’s been a common thread in all three of the hearings – both Chaffetz and Walberg concocted phony meetings between themselves and Miguel Del Toral to give weight to their attacks on Susan Hedman and the EPA.
I guess they should be glad it wasn’t THEM that was under oath at that hearing.