Former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley is resigning from his position as head of Detroit Public Schools after refusing to testify during a Congressional hearing about the Flint water crisis, the governor’s office confirmed this morning.
The news comes on the same day the FBI confirmed it was investigating officials’ role in the crisis, which led to the poisoning of thousands of Flint residents.
Earley has long denied playing a role in the decision to use the Flint River when he was the city’s emergency manager, but records obtained by Motor City Muckraker show Earley was lying.
On March 7, 2014, Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley wrote in an e-mail to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) that he was not interested in a short-term contract to avoid using the Flint River, despite serious concerns raised by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2012.
“There will be no need for Flint to continue purchasing water (from DWSD) to serve its residents and businesses after April 17, 2014,” Earley wrote to DWSD Director Sue McCormick.
But months later, after studies began to show dangerously elevated levels of lead from Flint River water, Earley and Gov. Rick Snyder both claimed the emergency manager was forced to use the river because DWSD insisted it would cut off the city without a long-term contract.
“The Detroit Water and Sewer Department at the time, back last spring, said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna cut you off,’” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfell told the ACLU.
Despite his involvement in the crisis, Earley was appointed by Snyder to serve as emergency manager over DPS.
Earley’s refusal to testify at Wednesday’s hearing before the U.S. House Oversight Committee raises red flags about his involvement in the crisis.
Records show that DWSD urgently tried to get Flint to sign a short-term contract to avoid the health dangers of the Flint River.
But state officials, including Earley, insisted on using the Flint River and signed off on the decision.
Snyder defended Earley’s role as emergency manager over DPS.
“Darnell has done a very good job under some very difficult circumstances. I want to thank him for his professionalism and his service to the people of Michigan,” Snyder said in a news release. “He restructured a heavily bureaucratic central office, set in place operating and cost-containment measures, and has taken steps to stabilize enrollment. These factors should all set the course for a sustainable, new Detroit Community Schools, as I have proposed.”
Snyder said he’ll appoint an interim emergency manager for DPS by the month’s end.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.