Former Flint EM spoke to Snyder about testifying

A spokesman says Snyder told Darnell Earley it was up to him and his attorney whether to testify about the water crisis

Former Flint EM spoke to Snyder about testifying

Paul Egan

| Detroit Free Press

LANSING — Former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley told the U.S. House Oversight Committee this week that he spoke to Gov. Rick Snyder about his invitation to testify before the committee. And that disclosure, made by Earley in answers to written follow-up questions the committee sent him, has the ranking Democrat on the committee pushing to know more.

“He now finally admits that he talked to Gov. Snyder about whether to appear before Congress, but he still refuses to tell us what he said,” in the Feb. 1 conversation, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said in a statement sent to the Free Press on Friday.

“After Mr. Earley talked to the governor, he spoke with his lawyer, who refused to accept a subpoena from our chairman, and the governor issued a press release praising Mr. Earley for his service.”

“These actions by Gov. Snyder and Mr. Earley are not the ‘full cooperation’ the governor promised the people of Michigan.”

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said the subject of Earley’s invitation to testify came up at the end of a meeting with Snyder about the Detroit Public Schools, where Earley became the emergency manager in January 2015. That’s after Earley left his post in Flint, where he was in charge when the city disastrously began drawing its drinking water from the Flint River.

“He asked the governor his opinion about testifying,” Adler said. “The governor said that it was up to Darnell Earley and his lawyer to make that decision.”

Adler said Cummings is “muddying the issue of Darnell Earley’s service in Flint and in Detroit (Public Schools),” and “that’s unfortunate because this issue is complicated enough for everyone to learn about and understand without mixing things up while trying to make a political point.”

Earley, who has told the City of Flint he is under criminal investigation for his role in the drinking water crisis, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on March 15, but only after considerable back-and-forth with the committee chaired by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who issued a subpoena for Earley on Feb. 3 and told U.S. marshals to “hunt him down” and serve him personally.

Earlier, on Jan. 29, Chaffetz and Cummings invited Earley to testify on Feb. 3, but he did not agree to come.

On Feb. 2, committee staff e-mailed Earley’s Washington, D.C., attorney, A. Scott Bolden, asking if Earley would appear voluntarily, or if a subpoena would be needed.

Bolden replied that he would not accept service of a subpoena for Feb. 3, for several reasons, including that the notice was too short.

“There are several investigations and civil matters pending against him right now and his appearance at this time would not be in his best interest,” Bolden said in an e-mail obtained by the Free Press. “Besides, I was just retained and I need time to interview my client, as well, prepare for any hearing on the Hill or elsewhere. Moreover, I will need time to consider his constitutional right, if any, that he would be entitled to.”

The committee then sent Bolden a subpoena electronically, but he refused to accept it.

It was the day before that e-mail exchange, Feb. 1, that Earley and Snyder spoke about Earley testifying.

“I only had one discussion with the governor and his staff – I did not have any additional discussions after notice of the subpoena had been transmitted,” Earley said in written responses to questions his attorney delivered to the committee clerk by e-mail on Monday.

Earley declined to detail the substance of his conversation with Snyder, apparently because the question — posed by Cummings, but sent to Earley through Chaffetz — asked if he had spoken to Snyder about how he would respond to his subpoena, and he had not yet been subpoenaed when he spoke to Snyder.

The day after that conversation, on Feb. 2, Snyder announced that Earley would be stepping down from his DPS post on Feb. 29. Snyder, in a news release, thanked Earley for his service and praised him for doing “a very good job.”

Adler said Earley’s departure was unrelated to Earley’s invitation to testify before Congress, and he does not believe Snyder asked Earley to step down.

Snyder testified before the same committee March 17.

The committee sent follow-up questions to Earley on April 18, after Earley wrote the committee to “clarify” one of the answers he gave when he testified under oath on March 15.

During committee questioning, Earley denied having a discussion with Bolden about refusing to testify, even if a subpoena was issued.

Three days later, Earley wrote the committee to clarify that testimony. He said he did have such a discussion with his attorney, but he wouldn’t disclose details because of attorney-client privilege.

In sending the follow-up questions, Cummings told Earley: “You may not subsequently assert the attorney-client privilege to perpetrate or conceal a previous falsehood made in your sworn testimony to the committee.”

But in his replies to the follow-up questions, Earley continued to assert attorney-client privilege and denied he had testified falsely. He said he had been asked by the committee about a subpoena to testify at the March 15 hearing, and the discussion he had with Bolden was about a subpoena to testify March 3.

“Several members of this committee continue to allege that my participation in these proceedings, and my desire to assist the committee in uncovering the truth behind the Flint water crisis, have been hollow at best,” Earley said in his written answers. “I deny these assertions.”

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

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