PART XI: ENGINEERING ETHICS: FACHEP → FLINTCOMPLAINTS → RHETORICAL HYPERBOLE

 

Dr. Edwards’ lawsuit regarding events in Flint that he alleged defamatory was dismissed last week.

The decision is a victory for FACHEP and friends and their lawyer Bill Moran. Oftentimes, the loser in such cases makes a desperate attempt to claim the glass is somehow half-full. But that would be dishonest, so we herein acknowledge the victors, and turn our focus to the question: If what transpired was not illegal, was it ethical?

Federal Judge Urbanski ruled that the Flintcomplaints letter signed by FACHEP faculty Dr. Ben Pauli, Dr. Laura Sullivan (Kettering University) and their friend, Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou, used wording that achieved a dubious standard, of being too hyperbolic to be trustworthy. The judge described the Flintcomplaints Letter that these three FACHEP and friend PhD faculty endorsed, as follows:

“<The Letter>…is replete with emotional and polemical language, rhetorical hyperbole, and unmistakable indicia of partisanship. Indeed, there is absolutely no pretense of objectivity or disinterestedness…”

”..the authors express their frustration with Edwards about a formal complaint he allegedly filed against a Wayne State University professor <Dr. McElmurry>.

“…there is a definite and palpable current of exasperation throughout the Letter,..The emphasis on the first-person tense……The sum effect of the format, tone, and content of the Letter is to make it unmistakably clear that its contents are of a partisan character…..”

“Moreover … the exasperated tenor, advocative style, and responsive posture would invariably lead a reasonable reader person to expect something less than scrupulous factual accuracy.”

In a post-truth world, what constitutes libel is changing, as described in the recent article “Too Hyperbolic to Be Believed”. Specifically if you make a sufficiently outrageous (i.e., “rhetorical hyperbole”) false statement about someone, the legal system assumes that “no reasonable person could believe” it. By legal definition, if a reasonable reader should doubt it, then it is not defamatory.

Ironically, Dr. Edwards filed the lawsuit and is authoring this blog series, precisely because he expects FACHEP faculty and friends with PhDs to be held accountable for anything ‘less than scrupulous factual accuracy” when it comes to all work conducted in Flint.

For eight months, we have been perplexed, by the question of “Who authored the hyperbolic Flintcomplaints letter—and why?”  With the advantage of FOIA emails unavailable when the lawsuit was filed in August 2018, and which were also unavailable to the judge when he rendered his decision (because new evidence cannot be provided after a case is filed), we can now shed more light on this mystery.

Herein, we examine evidence that shows that the Flintcomplaints letter and anonymously owned websites defending FACHEP and attacking Dr. Edwards were, at least partly, orchestrated by……FACHEP and friends.

CLUE #1: KATHERINE

The once unimaginable possibility that FACHEP faculty might go to such lengths, to  create an event that would put themselves in a positive light, was nicely expressed by Katherine who wrote the following comment, in response to our blog on Citizen Engineering.

Katherine  June 6, 2018 at 9:33 pm

All extremely logical and factual responses Dr. Edwards. You will always win in the court of science and facts but that’s clearly not how these folks play. The hubris of this group <FACHEP> for attacking someone for noticing gross fabrications and probable lying under oath is pathetic.

Good assignment for an undergraduate media class to figure out who the heck is actually behind such ‘sites’ as “flintcomplaints.com” and what their ultimate goals are, revenge, defamation, money, other? Probably a dirtier soup than the original Flint River water.

CLUE #2: WHO WROTE FLINTCOMPLAINTS

Acting on a tip, we submitted a FOIA for emails of a professor we never heard of before: Dr. Britt Holbrook (NJIT Assistant Professor of Humanities). Unfortunately, even though over 2000 pages of responsive emails were discovered 8 months ago, not one of them has yet been turned over to us.

But as part of the FOIA appeal process, NJIT was required to file a document, describing the general nature of emails that were withheld. That document revealed Dr. Holbrook corresponded not only with FACHEP friend Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou, but also with FACHEP faculty including Dr. Ben Pauli (Kettering) and Dr. Nancy Love (University of Michigan).

Recall that when Dr. Edwards was subpeoned to testify in Lyon and did so on March 26, 2018, the press characterized it as a “Battle of the Scientists.” To answer many questions posed about Edwards’ testimony, we published a blog with detailed allegations of unethical behavior by FACHEP’s leader Dr. Shawn McElmurry on March 29, 2018. Note that the substance of our allegations was validated in a LARA investigation released last week. In late March Drs. LoveLambrinidou, and Pauli asserted we were “bullies,” spreading “false information” and deserving of sanctions for our “unethical” behavior.

While we cannot tell who was authoring or cc’d on any NJIT emails, the timeline, content and general description of emails withheld by NJIT align perfectly with above events as follows:

  1. March 26, 2018-April 1, 2018 (11 pages). Email discussion re: Virginia Tech researcher Dr. Marc Edwards’ testimony about Flint, Michigan water emergency and attached draft letter from Kettering Assistant Professor Benjamin Pauli addressing unfair criticism by Dr. Edwards against the Flint Area Community Health and Environmental Partnership (FACHEP)
  2. March 26, 2018-April 4, 2018 (26 pages).  Email chain including additional discussion re: the possibility of Benjamin Pauli filing a complaint against Dr. Edwards pursuant to ASCE’s ethics and complaint procedures and providing link to ASCE’s ethics page.
  3. March 26, 2018-May 8, 2018. “…request for Dr. Holbrook to provide feedback re Benjamin Pauli’s (Kettering University) proposed letter to AAAS and ASEE.”
  4. May 8, 2018.  “Email discussion re: location for meeting in Wash., DC on May 9, 2018.

The day after the above May 9th 2018 meeting, the “hyperbolic” Flintcomplaints letter was sent to AAAS, AEESP, Virginia Tech, NAE and many other Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) groups.

Although the Flintcomplaints letter was judged too hyperbolic to be trusted by a reasonable reader, many of the STEM organizations were forced to examine this letter seriously.

Let’s consider the increasingly likely possibility, that FACHEP and friends PhD faculty, met in DC on May 9 to discuss Dr. Pauli’s letter, which morphed into the hyperbolic Flintcomplaints letter mailed May 10, 2018. Re-reading the whole Flintcomplaints letter with that thought in mind, reveals that about half the hyperbolic letter, defends the actions of FACHEP faculty– even echoing some of the words endorsed by  Dr. Love, Lambrinidou and Pauli back in late March 2018.

Further, recall that a June 28, 2018 posting on the Flintcomplaints Facebook page acknowledges that the hyperbolic Letter, was “crafted for us” Flint residents. And a reporter from East Village Magazine noted that authorship of this letter was “being strategically cloaked,” but “multiple local activists were involved.” Were Dr. Lambrinidou, Pauli, Sullivan, Love and Holbrook, those who “crafted” a letter for Flint residents to sign? Was this hyperbolic letter, considered a viable alternative, to publicly filing an ethics complaint against Dr. Edwards as discussed early April 2018?

CLUE #3: DR. PAULI (FACHEP) PERSONALLY SOLICITS SIGNATORIES

It turns out that FACHEP’s Dr. Pauli was actually sending out emails to many faculty, recruiting signatories to both the Flintcomplaints letter and still another letter (to be discussed later) with an “appeal for solidarity.” After writing FACHEP’s version of Edwards activities in Flint, Pauli pivoted:

But this email is only indirectly about Edwards’ attacks on FACHEP. It is really about Flint residents and activists.


(Note: Edwards never publicly called out FACHEP until fall 2017, even though they were maligning him publicly since late 2016)

Pauli then requests that people sign onto the two letters, by writing:

I have been following up with many of you individually and I just want to say how deeply appreciative I am of the support. This situation has been a bit of a nightmare for those of us in the middle of it–it has made people fearful for their careers and even their personal safety, and it has sucked up a massive amount of time that could have been spent on a great many other things. It has also been deeply damaging to the community. At the same time, the pushback we are seeing at multiple levels has the makings of something truly historic and inspiring.

We adamantly dispute any implication that Dr. Edwards ever endangered the personal safety of anyone and would like to see a shred of evidence supporting such an accusation. What is truly mystifying here, is why Dr. Pauli and FACHEP themselves spent so much time and energy undermining the credibility of every other entity operating in Flint (i.e., MDHSS, GCHD, CDC, EPA, and Virginia Tech), rather than devoting their energy to the trust-building work they promised when accepting FACHEP funding. Likewise, we simply cannot fathom the mentality of any PhD faculty, who would describe the hyperbolic Flintcomplaints letter as “truly historic and inspiring”.

CLUE #4: PAULI, LAMBRINIDOU AND THE SECOND LETTER

We will now detail the actions of Dr. Pauli and Lambrinidou, as explicitly documented in emails related to a second “letter to STEM from academics” that also spoke out against Dr. Edwards.

Step 1: FACHEP’s Dr. Pauli grew concerned that the first Flintcomplaints letter was not sufficiently damaging to Dr. Edwards because “the press release sent out a few days ago to announce the <Flintcomplaints> letter failed to get any traction”. Pauli then emailed numerous false statements to a group of social science faculty, none of whom Edwards had ever heard of, including a preposterous claim that Edwards had been sending “aggressive emails” to Melissa Mays because she signed the Flintcomplaints letter. Edwards sent no such emails to Mays.

Step 2: Pauli then wrote the professors:

“The letter of support for the residents’ complaint is more critical and urgent than ever…Yanna <Dr. Lambrinidou>, can you set up a website that could host the letter and that would allow fellow academics to sign in support?”

From reading this, we get a clear sense that Pauli and Lambrinidou have done this before (i.e., Flintcomplaints).

Step 3: Dr. Lambrinidou does not sign the letter. Dr. Pauli authored the letter and makes it clear he never intended to sign the letter he wrote either. Instead, he explicitly tells the other faculty, that his reason for not signing, is to maximize reputational harm to Dr. Edwards:

“Since I am not a signatory to the letter….I am also being very careful about what I say about the letter in general…. because then it might look like I’m the spokesperson for the letter (even if I don’t address it directly), which is something we absolutely must avoid if we want this thing to have its intended impact [on Dr. Edwards].

Step 4: Pauli then informs the signatories of his letter that if Dr. Edwards should call them to discuss matters, then they should give Edwards the cold shoulder” because “this letter, like the residents’ letter, is not for him.” He reminds these faculty how important it is that this effort “goes viral.” The letter is then released.

The day after the second letter was released, Dr. Pauli actually bragged in writing to the faculty who signed it that:

Even if every word of the residents’ letter was a lie, it is hard to see how anyone in their right mind could think that what Edwards is doing is appropriate.  There are already signs that this latest outrage is opening up cracks in Edwards’ reputation, even with sympathizers.”

Step 5: Pauli prepares the professors for anyone who might try and defend Dr. Edwards. For example, Pauli told them that AEESP President Maya Trotz has acted in some truly shocking ways that have compromised people who are trying to speak out about Marc. How she reconciles all this with principles of “community engagement” or “environmental justice” is beyond me.”

PAULI’S BOOK: FIGHTING FOR FLINT

Coincidentally, Dr. Pauli happens to be working on further cashing in on the Flint Water Crisis in general, and the Flintcomplaints and Flintaccountability letters, by writing a book about it.  Due to the fact Dr. Pauli emailed copies of the draft chapter to malign Edwards, we obtained a copy pursuant to FOIA law.

The draft chapter reveals an academic version of Fire Fighter arson. First, we have argued in this series, that FACHEP repeatedly (figuratively) started fires with residents, by intentionally maligning other academics and public health agencies. They then presented themselves as heroic figures battling the imagined enemies.

In relation to Edwards, Pauli goes further to write about how residents rose up to defend FACHEP, by first authoring and then signing onto the hyperbolic Flintcomplaints letter. In his emails, Pauli alternates between a claim that residents wrote Flintcomplaints, or that activists wrote it, dependent on the audience. All the while Pauli acts as if he is a dispassionate observer of the unfolding events, rather than the instigator he was. Why won’t Pauli honestly admit he played a role in authoring the letter?

For those who are interested in reading this tale, we provide a copy of the draft chapter covering the time period of our blogs 1-10 (read here). For those who do not have the time, we can tell you that the book mentions virtually none of the FACHEP problems we revealed in blog parts 1-10.  There is almost nothing about the clashes between FACHEP and Dr. Wells (MDHHS), or FACHEP’s friction with health messaging of other public agencies through January 2017. Of course, there is also nothing at all mentioned regarding FACHEP’s rumormongering about a shigella outbreak coming from water.

When describing the Flintcomplaints letter, Pauli wrote the following:

And in the most stunning development yet, 40 residents signed a letter in protest of Edwards’s attack on FACHEP and behavior toward the community generally, sending it to a variety of professional engineering and scientific associations and calling for an independent investigation. After the letter was posted online to Flintcomplaints.com, signatures from residents and outside supporters continued to stream in. Edwards, denouncing what he called the. letter’s “many false claims” and depicting it as a plot by Melissa Mays to smear him, pledged to track down each of its signatories individually and ask them whether they agreed with its every last word.

Here we can see several dimensions to Dr. Pauli’s dishonesty. First, he again hides any personal role in planning, writing, orchestrating or seeking signatories for the “stunning..letter in protest of Edwards’s attack on FACHEP.”

Second, Edwards never “pledged to track down each of its signatories individually.” He wrote a very polite email to the email address from whence Flintcomplaints originated, pointing out false statements in the letter, and asking whether those facts would change anything for signatories. Of course, Edwards got the Pauli “cold shoulder” treatment– no one responded to his email. As far as Edwards knows, the signatories were never even provided it.

We also do not feel Edwards was “depicting <the letter> as a plot by Melissa Mays to smear him.” Here is the full quote from the cited East Village Magazine source:

Edwards asserted the flintcomplaints.com letter had been written, and primarily represented the views of water activist Melissa Mays, though he said it is not all about her. “This is about an attack on expertise,”  Edwards said in a phone call today.  When his detractors — some of whom he said were from academia — “started to attack our engineering expertise, it all went off the rails. It’s a different world view, entirely — what we’ve been calling science anarchy, a populist, anti-elite movement that’s affected all our institutions.This is a new battlefield in a war over science, instigated by professors.  This is coming from academia, spurred on by people who are not engineers.”

We therefore disagree with the storyline presented in Pauli’s book, and we discovered numerous factual errors in the draft chapter that always err towards glorifying FACHEP and maligning others. Overall, when it comes to the book, we recall what Federal Judge Urbanski wrote about the Flintcomplaints letter:

An “…unmistakable indicia of partisanship…frustration with Edwards about a formal complaint he allegedly filed against a Wayne State University professor….a reasonable reader person <should> expect something less than scrupulous factual accuracy.”

SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Regrettably, none of the revelatory emails and insights presented above, were available to us when Dr. Edwards’ defamation case was first formulated and filed. Consequently, these insights were also unavailable, for the judge to consider when the defamation case was dismissed.

It is truly shocking to witness how FACHEP and friends PhD faculty, played a role in orchestrating the hyperbolic Flintcomplaints letter, from its conception to its promotion. FACHEP did not publicly and transparently debate Edwards. Instead, FACHEP hid behind the Flintcomplaints curtain, an action Pauli considers “historic and inspiring.”

Actually putting in writing that a motive for the letters, was to damage Edwards reputation, and inherent dishonesty in how the letters were  represented to academics, academic organizations, and the public, is also extremely disturbing. Is this the kind of behavior the State of Michigan should expect from academics with  public research funding. It is especially troubling because Drs. Love, Holbrook and Lambrinidou frequently claim engineering ethics expertise.

While maybe “no reasonable person could believe” the above story at first glance, read the emails and decide for yourself. Indeed, it is “a dirtier soup than the original Flint River water.” It may not be illegal, but it is ethical?

Part X. Conclusion of First LARA Investigation into Dr. McElmurry

An investigative science reporting series by Flintwaterstudy.org


NOTE FOR THE QUEASY:

This blog series involves heart-wrenching whistleblowing—the sort that comes from alleging misconduct of your own professional colleagues for actions harming the public and others. We cannot imagine that any reader is more sickened than we are, by having to air “dirty laundry” that includes sharing personal emails and discussing unethical behavior. But given the continued damage that would arise from remaining silent, we feel morally obligated to present evidence against FACHEP leadership in relation to:

– falsifying qualifications to win a multi-million dollar sole source grant during a federal emergency

– literally making a felony criminal case, out of legitimate criticism directed at their unprofessional work, which is best characterized as narcissistic victimization (a.k.a. “crybullying”)

– spreading malicious rumors, to ingratiate themselves with Flint residents at the expense of others

– violating the ASCE second canon, harming others through their incompetence

– wrongly taking credit for research ideas and data, belonging to others (e.g., Dr. Faust and Dr. Masten)

Please also be aware that FACHEP supporters have been FOIAing Flintwaterstudy, Dr. Edwards, Dr. Masten (MSU) and Dr. Maya Trotz (President AEESP) since Fall 2017. In fact, proving that no good deed goes unpunished, emails of 40+ members of our Flintwaterstudy team have been subpoenaed, for dozens of Michigan lawsuits and criminal cases that we are not even party to. Emails from the FOIA have been misrepresented by FACHEP supporters on social media to denigrate Virginia Tech undergraduate students, Dr. Sid Roy, Dr. Masten and Dr. Edwards. FACHEP faculty have even smeared Dr. Trotz as “unethical.” Dr. Edwards has filed a defamation lawsuit, which is partly related to actions of FACHEP faculty and their supporters as described herein. The facts presented in this series shed light on how such an unthinkable tragedy could unfold.

Cast of Key Characters Parts 1-9

Name Institution Role
Dr. Shawn McElmurryWSU – Civil Engineering FACHEP’s Founder, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Marcus ZervosWSU – Infectious DiseaseFACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Paul KilgoreWSU – PharmacyFACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
Dr. Nancy LoveUM – Civil EngineeringDr. McElmurry’s Enabler/Defender; Water Filter Research, Engineering Ethics Pontificator
Dr. Yanna LambrinidouParents for Non-Toxic AlternativesFriend of FACHEP, Adversary of Flintwaterstudy
Dr. Eden WellsMI Chief Medical OfficerAccused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
Mr. Nick LyonMI Health Chief Accused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
 
Marc EdwardsVT – Civil EngineeringFlintwaterstudy leader – Author of this blog Series; Potable Water Legionella, Lead, Ethics Expertise
Dr. Amy Pruden VT – Civil EngineeringVT Flint research co-PI; Potable Water Legionella and Microbiology Expertise
Dr. Kasey FaustUT – Civil EngineeringPhD work in Flint 2013-2015 on Shrinking Cities; Dr. McElmurry was on her PhD Committee
Dr. Sue MastenMSU – Civil EngineeringFACHEP Member and Whistleblower; Drinking Water Treatment Expertise

PART 1: Dr. SHAWN McELMURRY

CONSIDERING THE UNIMAGINABLE-DID McELMURRY COMPLETELY FABRICATE HIS STORY OF WORK IN FLINT?

PART 2: FACHEP’S TROUBLED BIRTH

PART 3: FACHEP MAKES A MOCKERY OF ETHICAL CODES—THE WHISTLEBLOWER FROM MSU

PART 4: LOVE THE ALARMIST:  THE REAL STORY ON SHIGELLA AND WATER FILTERS (Pre-FWC to August 12, 2016)

PART 5: TRIAL BY ORDEAL WITHIN AN ACADEMIC BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES

PART 6:  UNFAIR COMPETITION: WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY AND VEGANS DO IT BETTER

Part 7: LOVE THE ALARMIST:  THE REAL STORY ON SHIGELLA AND WATER FILTERS (August 12 TO December 2, 2016)

Part 8: WHEN LOVE TURNED TO HATE

THE SAGA OF THE SLIDES: HIGHLIGHTS OF WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY RESPONSE

Part 9: ONE DAY OF UNFILTERED LOVE


Part X. Conclusion of First LARA Investigation into Dr. McElmurry

The findings from our LARA complaint regarding Dr. Shawn McElmurry have finally been released. We are very impressed by the professionalism of the investigation. While we wish that the process were quicker, the stakes are high, and we are pleased that there is due process and a presumption of innocence.

A few points to consider before we provide our readers with the summary report. For starters, by breaking FOIA law, Wayne State successfully delayed release of many key documents so that they could not be presented to LARA as evidence. Moreover, given that the date of the LARA report was October 2018, no documents or analysis that we have presented in Parts II-IX of this investigative science series were considered by LARA.

The conclusions of the report validate all key allegations expressed in our LARA complaint and first blog of this series. First and foremost, in relation to McElmurry’s claim of 5 years experience in Flint, he could not provide a shred of evidence to support it. The investigator concluded:

In summary, I believe that in at least two instances (e-mail to Edwards and NIH grant proposal cited above) Dr. McElmurry overstated his prior involvement in City of Flint’s drinking water system and contamination issues. These overstatements were intended to both solicit/attract external contributions by other experts (e.g., Edwards) to his research team and to substantiate large research awards/funds for Wayne State University and other contributors. In an additional two instances, two respected members involved in drinking water research (Faust and Masten) and McElmurry’s work have both cited improprieties of similar nature. Apparently under oath and in response to the LARA Complaint, McElmurry has been unable to substantiate prior City of Flint experience.  As a result, these overstatements regarding City of Flint experience are deemed to be “misrepresentations” in a professional setting based on my review work.

The LARA investigator acknowledged that McElmurry’s numerous sworn statements under oath regarding his unsubstantiated work in Flint, was beyond the scope of his review. Nor was it LARA’s place, to comment on McElmurry and Love’s public duets about years of Flint work, as exemplified by a claim made on the radio May 9, 2017 thatI actually have to admit, that I had before this, been working in Flint about 7 years earlier…..and so I think once you come to Flint you never leave.” Original audio file may be obtained from the City of Flint’s website (excerpt starts after 26:30)

Second, in relation to allegations McElmurry appropriated of the work of Dr. Faust to win grants, the investigator concluded:

My conclusion is that Faust’s dissertation and body of knowledge were used by McElmurry to assist in securing research funding without proper reference/credit and that Dr. Faust was not a part of ensuing research work.

The investigation also cited a potential “pattern of professional misconduct” and dishonesty that LARA considered deserving of follow-up scrutiny.

Based on the evidence available to LARA as of October 2018, there was a suggestion that this embellishment of experience truly was misrepresentation and a violation of the Occupational Code, Section 339.604 Items (c) and (d) on occupational conduct and moral character.  Yet, back in October 2018, there was inadequate evidence to determine there was a violation of the current standards of practice and professional conduct/or professional engineers. LARA noted they are considering additional evidence submitted by Dr. Susan Masten in further evaluating this case. We will also be submitting additional information and LARA has agreed to consider it.

The “Very Confusing” Saga of McElmurry’s Complete Flint Hydraulic Model

We can now add to the timeline of self-serving and inconsistent statements, McElmurry has made about his Flint hydraulic model (Table). Recall McElmurry asserted in writing, that he had 5 years work in Flint” and a “complete hydraulic model of Flint’s drinking water system, and used that to obtain the following items from Edwards: NSF RAPID proposal, IRB/sampling protocols, introduction to Howard Croft, Flint distribution system sampling locations and a letter of commitment for McElmurry’s NIH grant. Moreover, according to Dr. Reynold’s testimony, it was McElmurry’s hydraulic modeling work in Flint that justified giving him the sole source leadership of FACHEP.

Incredibly, on April 30, 2018, McElmurry provided yet another version of the story in writing:

“..it was very confusing what information was available. I had initially thought the City of Flint provided Dr. Abraham, Kasey Faust and me with a fully functioning <complete hydraulic> model of the Flint water distribution system.  ..This understanding turned out to be incorrect.”

Really? Read McElmurry’s emails to Dr. Faust on October 7th and 8th, to judge for yourself, whether McElmurry could have believed that the fully functioning hydraulic model came from the City of Flint.

Then, by August 2018, Wayne State claimed in writing that “McElmurry had no hydraulic…model” back in 2015.  This is indeed “very confusing” to say the least.

Conflicting McElmurry and WSU Statements on Flint Hydraulic Model.

Date Statement
10/7/2015 Email from McElmurry to Edwards: “I have done a fair amount of work on Pb exposure and have worked in Flint in the past. As a result of this past work, I have a working hydraulic model of the Flint drinking water system.”
10/8/2015 Email from McElmurry to Faust: “Kasey, I took a look at the epanet <hydraulic> model of Flint you used for your dissertation. It doesn’t look like it was complete, at least the one you sent me. Do you have a complete model of the system?”
10/8/2015 Email Faust to McElmurry: “Yes I do- I’ll have to find it on my hard drive when I get home…….Is GIs okay with you?”   <FAUST FORWARDS MCELMURRY COMPLETE HYDRAULIC MODEL>
10/10/2015 McElmurry written statement to NIH, forwarded to Edwards by email on 10/12/2015. Bold emphasis in original.  “Over the last 5 years the PI (McElmurry) has conducted research focused on how to best adapt Flint’s existing water infrastructure to changes in population and industrial demand.  As a result of this work, the team already possesses a complete hydraulic model of Flint’s drinking water system. We will utilize this model….”
10/6/2017 Sworn Testimony of Dr. Larry Reynolds in Lyon, on why he recommended McElmurry to lead FACHEP: “ I recommended Doctor Shawn McElmurry, an environmental engineer at Wayne State because he had done hydraulic modeling for the city of Flint I think within the past year <2015>..”
4/30/2018 McElmurry’s written response to LARA: “..it was very confusing what information was available. I had initially thought the City of Flint provided Dr. Abraham, Kasey Faust and me with a fully functioning model of the Flint water distribution system.  ..This understanding turned out to be incorrect.”
8/16/2018 Wayne State University to Edwards:  “McElmurry had no hydraulic …model” in 2015

Dr. Love’s Unqualified Support for Dr. McElmurry

We take issue with certain statements made in the documentation provided by Drs. McElmurry, Love and Sullivan on the case (see documents below). We will allow Flintwaterstudy readers to dissect these for themselves, and address these concerns in future blogs, including Dr. Love’s concluding statement that “Dr. Shawn McElmurry is one of the most ethically-bound individuals I have had the honor to work with.”

In her letter, Love cites McElmurry as an ethical exemplar for NSPE Canon 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. According to themselves, Dr. Love and McElmurry are true icons of ethical integrity and action. We provide a montage tribute to their professional relationship and high opinion of each other (and themselves) below.

But we do believe that it is important to point out four misleading statements made by Dr. Love in her letter, which will later be revealed, to be part of a multi-year campaign to portray Dr. Edwards as unethical. 

1) “<Edwards> noted one reason for leaving <the University of Colorado> was because of a conflict he had with another faculty member.”

As detailed in the attached e-mail from Dr. Mark Hernandez, Dr. Edwards indeed had conflicts with a Department Chair at the University of Colorado, who would not honor start-up packages promised to junior faculty during recruitment. Hernandez has frequently and publicly recounted this conflict as an example of Edwards high ethical standards and integrity (read email confirmation here). This is part of a pattern, in which Love interprets actions that most would consider ethical (e.g., Edwards helping Dr. Hernandez receive his startup package or paying for humanitarian research out of his own pocket in the D.C. Lead Crisis) through her own unique lens to malign Dr. Edwards.

2) “Dr. Kasey Faust is an assistant professor who found herself being FOIAed by a full professor <Edwards>…she is one of three untenured assistant professors across three different states that I know of who have been FOIAed, pressured or harassed by the complainant <Edwards> over the last two years. In academic circles, this type of behavior is absolutely inappropriate and can be grounds for removal.”

Wow.  Dr. Edwards is a truly evil person who should be investigated and probably fired for such unethical behavior. Future blogs will reveal the extraordinary efforts that Dr. Love made in order to make that happen from 2016 to present. In the meantime, we only point out that Dr. Edwards never FOIAed Dr. Faust. Moreover, Dr. Faust will be meeting with both Pruden and Edwards at Virginia Tech in a few weeks, and their relationship has been collegial ever since Edwards first phoned Faust in early 2018.

3) “I have had multiple experiences with <Edwards> aggressive tactics and efforts to silence me <Love>, even from the time when I was a faculty member at Virginia Tech. I have tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he has moved on and chosen to behave more appropriately and professionally, but several of his actions over the last two years indicate that he has not. He has taken multiple steps that are, in my view, unacceptable and inconsistent with the ASCE ethics codes he likes to quote.


Fascinating. So Love’s sugary sweet email to Edwards, feigning concern for his health and extolling his professional ethics, was all a cynical ploy to get funding. Edwards knew that, yet he naïvely helped Love get funding for a University of Michigan Flint filter study team to be led by Dr. Raskin anyway. It is unfortunate for Flint residents that Dr. Raskin was cut out of the filter research, because she is not the  type to fearmonger about Shigella or strategically malign others. And when thanking Edwards for the WSU/UM NSF filter funding and apologizing for academics just trying to get a piece of the pie,” McElmurry correctly noted that  “the concept of a “public good” seems to be lost in many areas of our society.”

4) “When Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast September 2017, a senior faculty member at the University of Texas (UT) contacted me <Love> about helping them to gear up for the emergency response needs…. I included Shawn in the discussions,.. …this gracious act was quite typical of Shawn’s manner – in service to the community….”

FOIA documents tell a different story. FACEBOOK messages prove that Dr. McElmurry first contacted Dr. Faust on Hurricane Harvey work on 8-30-2017. McElmurry wrote Faust:I’ve been approach from nih program manager asking if we can take flint experience to Houston…We need to talk. I need someone local and you are perfect given your work….I would love to work e <sic> with your again. Felt bad Flint thing never panned out…so fucking political.” On this basis, it would appear, that McElmurry was once again coming to Dr. Faust to seek help in getting NIH funding. Note that this was before Dr. Faust realized what McElmurry had done on the 2015 NIH grant, using her work without permission and then cutting her out of the resulting funding.

Complete LARA Summary Report

We below provide complete text from the LARA summary report (emphasis in red was added, all other emphasis is original). Dr. Edwards filed the complaint and Dr. McElmurry is the “Licensee.” This text comes from converting a pdf file, so there could be minor typos. The original pdf file is provided. We will allow Flintwaterstudy readers to read all of these documents for themselves, without further comment from us at this time.


LARA REPORT

  1. Did the Licensee falsify or misrepresent his professional qualifications if he incorrectly stated that his experience included working in Flint for 5 years?

In an e-mail dated October 12, 2015 from McElmurry to Dr. Marc Edwards, a summary of his NIH Rapid Response proposal was offered with a note that such would be changing. This e-mail appeared to be written as part McElmurry’s efforts to solicit Edwards to join his planned research team but ultimately this did not happen. Statements therein read “our team (part of the NSF funded Water@ Wayne Group) is currently working together and able to respond with this rapid assessment based on our intimate understanding of the Flint regional water system and social infrastructure.  Over the last 5 years the PI (McElmurry) has conducted research focused on how to best adapt Flint’s existing water infrastructure to changes in population and industrial demand.  As a result of this work, the team already possesses a complete hydraulic model of Flint’s drinking water system.”   

The biographical sketch of Dr. Shawn McElmurry included in this revised NIH SF 424 Submission dated November 2, 2015 contains very little detail of McElmurry’s professional experience prior to and from 2010 (year he was awarded a PhD) through 2015. In particular, there is no mention of any prior experience associated with the City of Flint water system in either experience summaries or in published works (as lead or contributor). No significant research works or other professional qualifications were offered in McElmurry’s response to the Complaint dated April 30, 2018 wherein he should have identified any prior experience gained in addressing the City of Flint drinking water system. In fact, there was little information presented defending his ability to lead and conduct the NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) grant research and Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership research specific to the City of Flint (FACHEP; as commissioned by a grant from the State of Michigan, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)). It is not believed that Dr. McElmurry was ever contracted by the City of Flint for any service nor did he have any stated, direct experience with the City’s drinking water system.

I did access a website containing dialog posted by Dr. Marc Edwards (Reference G) concerning McElmurry’s credentials, wherein there is dialog apparently extracted out of State of Michigan court proceedings where a third party questioned McElmurry on his Flint experience. It is uncertain whether this dialog is factual; certainly there is conflict between Edwards and McElmurry at this time. However, it does identify a trend wherein McElmurry was unable to define any specific projects, research, consulting, precise timeline, or correspondence defending any prior Flint experience.

The Investigation Report produced by Stephanie Murphy (State of Michigan, LARA) dated June 20, 2018 contains a witness statement from Dr. Kasey Faust, for whom Dr. McElmurry provided external review of her Ph.D thesis from 2013 to 2015. Faust identifies that McElmurry gained access to a significant amount of City of Flint data and a hydraulic model which she developed in her thesis preparation. While McElmurry may have commented on thesis works as a reviewer, he was certainly not a part of a “research team” preparing such. Rather than indicating this relationship and source of Flint knowledge base, the NIH grant proposal incorrectly references loosely related “external works”. Faust also states that she did not provide permission to McElmurry to use this research/dissertation nor was she included in any defined team to contribute this knowledge/research/expertise where such could have benefitted society and public safety.

A letter from Dr. Nancy Love (University of Michigan, College of Engineering) to Ms. Stephanie Murphy Michigan, Bureau of Professional Licensing) dated June 1, 2018 in Reference A alternately offered strong support for Dr. McElmurry’s character and high ethical/professional standards. Drs. Love and McElmurry served together in research conducted under the FACHEP beginning in late 2015 with no prior collaboration found in my literature search.

However, notes from interviews with Dr. Susan Masten of Michigan State University conducted by Mr. Jon Campbell (State of Michigan, LARA; Reference E) on July 26 and August 6, 2018 regarding Dr. McElrnurry’s conduct on the FACHEP research work concluded that repeated incidents of  “ghost” authorship (where authors who contributed substantially to McElmurry’s work were omitted), misappropriation of intellectual property (plagiarism), denial of earned authorship, and falsification of his actual experience record all occurred. A second complaint to LARA regarding these concerns and providing evidence to such is expected to be filed by Dr. Masten.

McElmurry’s provided listing of his publications and prior research in the NIH grant proposal contains a diverse list of topics beyond drinking water research, including energy and stormwater topics. There are no citations associated with the City of Flint, or other similar research.

In summary, I believe that in at least two instances (e-mail to Edwards and NIH grant proposal cited above) Dr. McElmurry overstated his prior involvement in City of Flint’s drinking water system and contamination issues. These overstatements were intended to both solicit/attract external contributions by other experts (e.g., Edwards) to his research team and to substantiate large research awards/funds for Wayne State University and other contributors. In an additional two instances, two respected members involved in drinking water research (Faust and Masten) and McElmurry’s work have both cited improprieties of similar nature. Apparently under oath and in response to the LARA Complaint, McElmurry has been unable to substantiate prior City of Flint experience.  As a result, these overstatements regarding City of Flint experience are deemed to be “misrepresentations” in a professional setting based on my review work. 

  1. Did the Licensee seek professional employment based on his qualifications, competence, and ability to properly accomplish the employment sought when applying for the NIH and FACHEP proposals/grants?

 Dr. McElmurry was professionally employed by Wayne State University (WSU) at the time that the complaint was filed. Consideration was given as to whether “seeking professional employment” applies to a situation where a professionally employed person uses such stature and credentials to secure research funding. Brief review of external literature sources did not identify any cases where external research activities constitute “professional employment”. In fact, McElmurry’s employment by WSU likely was based completion of both academic service (teaching) and completion of research work. There was no suggestion that he was seeking alternate employment from WSU through pursuit of NIH/FACHEP research awards and subsequent work involved WSU and other university staff and students.  It is common for university researchers to pursue research funding from multiple and various sources, as part of substantiating their own career path, providing benefits to the general public, and yielding credentials to the university’s related educational programs.  This process can lead to “embellishment” or misrepresentation of credentials given that many research awards heavily weight technical expertise, demonstrated track record of participants, credentials of the principal investigator (Pl), and commitment to achieve desired results.

In both NIH and FACHEP proposals and research efforts, multi-disciplined teams of Wayne State and external experts were assembled with McElmurry as PI. Certainly universities attempt to internalize much of the research funding but in complicated research such as that posed by the City of Flint water crisis and human impacts from lead and Legionnaires bacteria exposure require external expertise.

For research conducted with public consequences, it is common to have results peer-reviewed. External peer review of the FACHEP reporting by KWR Watercycle Research Institute (” Assessment of the study on Enhanced Disease Surveillance and Environmental Monitoring in Flint, MI” dated October, 2017) identified a number of concerns with FACHEP project management and outcomes and apparently the sponsor of the FACHEP research (State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as directed by the State) cancelled further research with the FACHEP team.

However, McElmurry was purely the PI for this research effort and this was not considered to be “professional employment”. No concerns relative to performance or research conclusions were voiced by the NIH. It was concluded that the licensee did not seek “professional employment” in his course of work. See the response to Question #5 also.

  1. Was the Licensee competent to lead the FACHEP research project?

 The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/competent) defines “competent” to be: “having requisite or adequate ability or qualities” and being “legally qualified or adequate”.

Competency to lead a multi-million dollar research project involving multiple professional researchers and a complicated, public health issue with schedule-driven pressure requires skills gained through other large research investigations. The Investigation Report contains several third­ party experts in the water contamination field of study, many of whom participated in research with Dr. McElmurry. This is countered by statements in the Complaint questioning competency and noting concerns expressed by Dr Faust about possible mis-use of her research/dissertation materials.

There is insufficient evidence to conclude on whether the Licensee was competent to lead the FACHEP research project. Given that the research had further connotations related to the decisions made, actions/inactions taken, and job performance of state, county, and city government employees, as well as responses/non-responses to critical FOIA requests and third-party (KWR) concerns, some controversy on research results was inevitable.  The criticisms cited in the KWR report do point to poor project leadership, organization, communication but further analysis of the KWR report and analysis of the State of Michigan’s criticism of the FACHEP research is needed before competency or lack thereof can be established. I have personally served as principal investigator (PI) on large research projects and metrics/criteria used to establish whether the PI leadership was successful included: budget and schedule adherence, research alignment with mission statement/goals, quality and validity of the results and interpretation thereof, and satisfaction of third-party peer review/audit. Many of these metrics/criteria could not be located in the documentation furnished via the Investigative Report or through brief records recovery. That client (MDHHS/State) satisfaction was not achieved after consultant (FACHEP) spending over $3.3 million of state funds without credible PI defense and that other FACHEP participants cite very negative performance by McElmurry is definitely concerning as to whether competency existed. In conclusion, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Dr. McElmurry was incompetent to lead the FACHEP research project. 

  1. Was the dissertation work of Dr. Kasey Faust used by the Licensee to secure funding for the NIH and/or FACHEP projects?

 The Investigation Report did not contain the FACHEP proposal, but only an undated “FACHEP” planning document apparently written to defined the planned work on a State of Michigan funding opportunity by Wayne State University (three), Kettering University (one), and Henry Ford Health System (one) key researchers. Other participants later cited in the Phase 1 Report included University of Michigan and Colorado State University representatives. There is no mention of Dr. Faust or her research in the FACHEP correspondence provided. However, the e-mail traffic recovered from FOIA probes clearly includes her dialog with Dr. McElmurry leading up to the FACHEP work. This work was predominantly focused on Legionnaires disease associated with Flint water supplies, whereas the NIH research was more broad-based and focused on multiple contaminants (e.g., lead, Legionnaires bacteria, other) and chloride levels in water as well as infrastructure and policy impacts on challenged cities. At face value, Dr. Faust’s data and research were judged by me to be more valuable to the NIH research work.

My detailed observations related to Dr. Faust’s research and the NIH grant proposal were identified in my response to Question #1 above. Based on information available in the Investigative Report, there was intent to demonstrate prior experience with City of Flint water system and infrastructure in the NIH proposal which none of the proposed participants including Dr. McElmurry actually possessed. A loose correlation to previous research and publication led by Faust that McElmurry participated in was used to show relevant experience and enhance the likelihood of securing the grant funding. This misrepresentation was also included in the proposed Rapid Response draft issued by McElmurry to Dr. Edwards. I was not able to locate the research reporting which was funded by the NIH grant, so it is difficult to know whether this misrepresentation cascaded into actual modelling and water contamination transport study of the Flint system because said experience wasn’t possessed by McElmurry. My conclusion is that Faust’s dissertation and body of knowledge were used by McElmurry to assist in securing research funding without proper reference/credit and that Dr. Faust was not a part of ensuing research work. 

  1. Did the Licensee violate any standards of practice and/or professional conduct as it relates to the Professional Engineering Occupation?

 References B through D were reviewed, alongside information provided with the Investigation Report and that collected through literature search, to assess whether any standards of practice or conduct were violated.

Prohibited conduct of a professional engineer is addressed in Sections 339.601, 606 and 1204 (Articles 6 and 20) of the Occupational Code. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dishonesty) defines “dishonesty” to be “lack of honesty or integrity: disposition to defraud or deceive”. Review of the content of these sections found that none of these conditions cited therein (e.g., fraud, deceit, or dishonesty in practicing professional engineering) were truly the subject of this Complaint nor did the Investigation Report contain evidence of misconduct per the Occupational Code.  However, McElmurry’ s overstated involvement in the City of Flint water system definitely bordered on being dishonest.

Standards of practice and professional conduct for professional engineers are contained in Sections R339.16031 to R339.16034 of the Administrative Code, and address solicitation of employment, conflicts of interest, competency required in engineering project participation, and work review/supervision. Each of these standards was reviewed relative to the Complaint filed. Several observations were made:

  1. As noted in my response to other Questions, I could not identify any evidence of qualifications or experience of Dr. McElmurry with respect to City of Flint’s water infrastructure and treatment prior to the NIH grant proposal and his related solicitation of possible research teammates (Edwards). Reference F did not shed any further evidence in to this Complaint’s focus.  There was definitely misrepresentation of his credentials observed relative to R339.I6031 although such was not initially viewed by me to be pure “falsification” but rather an embellishment of his own actual knowledge base/experience. The actual wording in the Complaint is that Dr. McElmurry “appropriated ideas that were not his for an NIH research proposal”. Based on the Investigation Report packet, it is difficult to know whether this misrepresentation extended into “appropriation of ideas”. Dr. Masten’s response to questions associated with McEimurry’s conduct on separate FACHEP work clearly point to appropriation of ideas and poor conduct by McElmurry; LARA should carefully look at any supporting evidence offered by Dr. Masten to validate this in her complaint.
  2. McElmurry did align himself with other experts and professional associates in areas in which he was not technically competent for the NIH grant proposal and FACHEP team, thus demonstrating compliance with the third standard of practice (R339.16033) of professional engineers. This standard does not address competency of principal investigators or project managers (individuals who assemble teams) for which part of the Complaint is focused on.
  3. It is unclear how important the misrepresentation of credentials/qualifications/experience cited in Item 1 above was to the actual awards of research funding from NIH and MDHHS. Several documents of interest (“Additional Data Needs”) are cited below, which could better shed some understanding of this point. However, these documents are likely range from difficult to impossible to retrieve at this
  4. Regarding the Complaint’s accusation that Dr. McElmurry’s “lack of competence and expertise, this project (“FACHEP”) has led to a high profile prosecution of State of MI employees … “, I was unable to link how FACHEP research performed directly led to said prosecution. Certainly some of the correspondence attached to the Investigation Report identified the challenges that FACHEP team had with recovery of data including that from interviews with State of Michigan employees, but such does not directly align with what little I have read on ensuing testimony by McElmurry and findings of the State court system. The State did employ a third party (KWR) to review the Ol).tcomes of the FACHEP work and, assuming such was truly an independent and educated viewpoint, KWR’s report does state:”basic conditions for project oversight are lacking, scientific output and quality of work does not match the time and budget spent, lack of trust between client and customer are barriers to responsible research”. These conclusions suggest that there was some mismanagement of the research, which clearly points to the PI’s expertise in leading such  However, it is difficult to state that such was due to a “lack of competence” which is at the heart of the matter and intent of the Complaint to identify.
  5. The ongoing State of Michigan prosecution of State employees involved in the “Flint Water Crisis” is a separate criminal proceeding, for which McElmurry is not under

In summary, the only element of the Complaint that was found to be present in the Investigation Report documentation was Dr. McElmurry’s misrepresentation of his prior City of Flint experience to Dr. Edwards and the NIH (and potentially into the MDHHS grant proposal, which has not been provided). As professional engineers, it is critical that we represent ourselves truthfully to any member of the public at all times and particularly when such has consequences such as gaining a publically-funded research award. The severity of this misrepresentation was not initially viewed to be falsification but rather embellishment. Insights raised by Dr. Masten and the pattern of professional misconduct suggest that this embellishment of experience truly was misrepresentation and a violation of the Occupational Code, Section 339.604 Items (c) and (d) on occupational conduct and moral character.  The subsequent complaint filed by Dr. Masten on related concerns is viewed to be highly relevant and it is suggested that the two separate complaints be merged together into a common response by the State of Michigan. However, and most important to this review, said misrepresentation was NOT found to be a violation of the current standards of practice and professional conduct/or professional engineers as contained in Sections R339.16031 to R339.16034 of the Administrative Code.


Supporting Documents:

LARA Report

Dr. McElmurry Response to LARA Complaint

Dr. Love Letter

Dr. Faust Interview Notes

Dr. Sullivan Interview NotesU

Dr. Faust and Dr. McElmurry Facebook Conversation

McElmurry’s Hydraulic Model Conflicting Statements

FACHEP vs. The People of the State of Michigan: Part IX One Day of Unfiltered Love

The Big Picture

Flintwaterstudy launched July 2015 to “help resolve scientific uncertainties associated with drinking water issues being reported in the City of Flint, MI.” We worked overtime to expose the depths of the Flint Water Crisis in terms of lead, legionella and unethical government behavior—a Federal Emergency was declared January 2016.

The resulting international media sensation and $600+ million in relief funding accomplished great good but also created powerful corrupting influences. A peer-reviewed paper Citizen Science During the Flint, Michigan Federal Water Emergency: Ethical Dilemmas and Lessons Learned published last week describes some gut-wrenching issues encountered in 2016-2018, and our attempts to address them.

About a year ago we launched this investigative science blog series, to shed light on the felony cases against Dr. Eden Wells and Mr Nick Lyon. At the time wrote about a presumption of guilt and perjury concerns as follows:

 “In late September 2015, we wrote that some MDHHS employees were behaving unethically, but within a few days MDHHS reversed course by agreeing the water was unsafe, and after Dr. Wells started working with us in December 2015, we were impressed enough to call her out publicly in a good way on our webpage on January 7, 2016. Ever since, Michigan government has supported our scientific work and professionally answered all our questions, even when they were fully aware our research was showing that the switch to Flint River water was one key factor contributing to the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak and associated deaths. We published two peer-reviewed journal papers documenting this science in 2016 and 2017At no point did anyone at MDHHS or the governor’s office discourage or impede our teams ground-breaking research that helped reveal the Flint Legionella outbreak.

Given our own positive experiences with MDHHS since December 2015, we were surprised when professors representing the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP) alleged under oath that the State of Michigan had not cooperated with their Legionella research. Indeed, sworn testimony by FACHEP professors was a basis for felony “obstruction of justice” charges against Wells and Lyons. To date, the media has generally sided with the presumably noble FACHEP professors and against the maligned state employees in all such disputes.  Starting with this article, Flintwaterstudy will present an investigative series that calls that narrative into question…”

We are publicly blowing the whistle on our colleagues in this blog series because a miscarriage of justice might result if we were to remain silent. That injustice involves not just the lives of Dr. Wells and Mr. Lyon, but also the historical record of government achievement during the Flint Disaster response—it involves the commodity of public-trust, of which there is precious little in present day Flint. We blow the whistle not because it is easy or will be rewarded, but because it is hard and righteous. As Dr. Edwards correctly predicted to the Detroit News “…I fully expect to pay a professional price for upholding my responsibilities.”

When asked if he felt naïve about the later efforts to destroy his professional reputation, Edwards told the Washington Post: “It comes down to duty versus self-preservation….In a post-truth world, science has become just another weapon of tribal warfare, and rising above that takes courage.” We do fear for the fate of our world, if university professors go Post-truth.

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, some might ask: “What is our aim?” To answer in one word, it is TRUTH.  Truth with a capital T. Truth, in spite of ourselves. Truth, with all its warts, human frailty, and soul-sickening unethical behavior. For without truth, as was tragically illustrated during the Flint Water Crisis and its aftermath… we will all sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”


Part IX: One Day of Unfiltered Love

(December 14, 2016 – December 15, 2016) 

An investigative science reporting series by Flintwaterstudy.org

Part 8 ended with FACHEP falsely assuring project manager Dr. Eden Wells (MDHSS) that the forthcoming December 14th, 2016 public meeting at the Flint Library would present nothing new, even as they prepared a presentation that would scare Flint residents and portray the State of Michigan unfavorably.

Dr. Ben Pauli (Kettering) later admitted that the purpose of the meeting was “to roll out <FACHEP> preliminary results directly to residents,” “winning over” the activists “who saw the state <of MI> as their number-one enemy” by emphasizing possible dangers of Flint water. FACHEP also figured that the story about bacteria, offered “hopeofimpeding the rush to declare the crisis over.

Let’s imagine ourselves in Dr. Wells’ shoes at 5 am the morning after the Flint library meeting, as she learned about media coverage, social media fallout, and FACHEPs sidebar conversations with residents. Illustrative snippets of each are provided below.

MEDIA COVERAGE. Although McElmurry told Wells no media would be invited, they attended and had a field day. Mlive ran a story with Dr. Love’s proclamation that it was important to flush the filtersat least one minuteto clear away dangerous bacteria and that residents should also be “boiling water or using a UV disinfection lamp” to treat filtered water. Her claims contradicted 11-13 months of unified messaging (FEMA, United Way, National Guard, ATSDR, EPA, GCHD, MDEQ, MDHSS, CDC, City of Flint, and FlintWaterStudy) that it was ok to directly drink POU filtered Flint water.

Photo of Dr. Love at Flint library purchased from Mlive

Mlive also quoted Melissa Mays, who was collaborating with FACHEP on an effort to create a narrative Flint water was getting worse:

“It was nice to hear that things aren’t all better… I can only imagine what would happen if I were to try to drink this through the tap filters. It’s telling me I’m making the right decision by drinking bottled water.”

FACHEP leader McElmurry expressed a self-promotional worldview, that no one else working on the FWC could possibly care for Flint residents, like “Wayne Cares for Flint.” 

it’s important that Flint residents know “that there are people out there working to understand the concerns that residents have.”

WNEM Channel 5 trumpeted “WATER SAMPLES REVEAL PROBLEM FOR FLINT RESIDENTS,” quoting Dr. Zervos (WSU):  “There’s issues with the point of use filters….bacteria levels actually increase… for bacteria there’s an issue.” Mr. Quincy Murphy, an activist who was on FACHEP’s payroll, stated “…the preliminary test results confirm many residents’ fears…. We just keep getting the run around and these people telling us it’s OK…we don’t know who to trust and who to believe.”

SOCIAL MEDIA. A selection of some social media quotes poignantly illustrate that Dr. Love’s presentation had a significant impact, including planting the idea that Flint residents were being used in a sort of unethical and uncontrolled human experiment.

Dr. Sullivan, acting in her role of “restoring trust” between Flint residents and the State of Michigan, unleashed a volley of FACHEP propaganda. She electronically high-fived Dr. Zervos for speaking out” about the dangerous bacteria, inexplicably damned the State of Michigan for a “deluge of darkness that makes us afraid” and lauded McElmurry for navigating a “storm of voices that say that Flint residents aren’t able to handle the truth about their water.”

SIDEBAR CONVERSATIONS. Dr. Pauli wrote that at the beginning of the Flint library meeting, “I could tell we would have our work cut out for us winning <the activists> over. FACHEP worked overtime and pulled out all the stops after the formal presentation was over. In sidebar conversations Dr. Zervos (WSU) asserted the State of Michigan were “cheap bastards” who would not come up with necessary funding for bacteria testing. There were obviously hard feelings that FACHEP was not provided the full $13 million McElmurry initially requested.

Dr. Pauli also continued FACHEP’s smear campaign against Dr. Edwards. Herein, we only cite rumors that can be independently verified in Dr. Pauli’s draft book chapter or recorded public presentations. First, there was a FACHEP manufactured lie, that on December 8th Edwards requested Dr. McElmurry sign a “sweeping” written declaration that Flint water was “safe.” When in reality, Edwards had merely requested a quote from McElmurry acknowledging Flint water was “much improved” compared to the height of the crisis 13 months earlier. Then there was a Dr. Love-inspired litany of alleged financial conflicts including that Dr. Edwards was “paid,” “bought,” “sold out” or “collaborating” with the State of MI.

Pauli introduced another strategic misquote, that Edwards had “claimed that Flint’s tap water, when filtered, was of a higher quality than bottled water!” His book cites an article from which the actual written quote was “Edwards said, properly filtered water in the city was likely as good, if not better, than bottled water, especially prepackaged water that had been stored for a long time in hot conditions.” We note that Dr. Pauli has publicly stated his work “is focused on…less the truth of the crisis with a capital T, and more of the struggle around the crisis,”..and that “sometimes when you are engaged in a process of struggle, truth is your ally, and sometimes it isn’t.” There is a clear pattern of FACEHP sacrificing truth to support their “struggle” of creating a hero narrative for themselves.

Not content with just verbal rumors, Pauli put exclamation points on alleged differences between FACHEP’s message about water safety, and the many false claims they made about Edwards, by tweeting: “The team is not ready to make a blanket statement about the water being safe”. And in the book chapter Pauli wrote, “at least we were not proclaiming the water “safe” at the meeting.

DR. LOVE UNFILTERED

How on earth can someone portray the free distribution of POU filters, that are purchased voluntarily by tens of millions of American each year to remove particles, tastes/odors, lead and organic chemicals, as an unprecedented, life-threatening, uncaring human experiment? More importantly, WHY would someone do that? We trace it back to Dr. Love’s deep-seated insecurities and jealousies, and a quest to make her mark as a heroine of the Flint water crisis one way or another. 

The die was cast in her initial January 2016 email to Dr. Edwards, where she acknowledged the POU filters were her only professional experience remotely relevant to the FWC. Yet, even on that narrow topic, she had never published a single peer reviewed paper, or bothered to learn details of the Flint filter deployment. In terms of drinking water expertise, Dr. Love was a zero-trick pony, destined to repeatedly take the microphone on the FWC stage, solemnly making a case about alleged dangers of POU filters, yet earning only politely suppressed jeers from true experts observing the spectacle while rejecting her illogical reasoning.

At the December 14, 2016 press conference, with no true experts in her way, Dr. Love would get her chance to take the microphone unfiltered. We even suspect that the false written statement to Dr. Wells that nothing new would be presented, was deliberate, to make sure no voices of scientific reason would intrude or otherwise bear witness to what FACHEP was doing.

The 18 pages of written talking points prepared days in advance of the library meeting, starts with ignorance of communicating molecular microbiology results to the public (i.e., SLOAN MOBE 101), builds on negligent false assumptions about the POU filter deployment in Flint, and ended with Love’s POU Flint filter “manifesto” with a predetermined conclusion set in concrete months earlier. There was a heavy emphasis on using the words “anomalous,” “abnormal,” and “unusual” to describe DNA detected in the Flint filters, and a repeated implication that filtered Flint water was probably dangerous for consumption without additional treatment (see summary of some talking points below).

THE FLINT LIBRARY MESSAGE ACCORDING TO DR. BEN PAULI

We cite Dr. Ben Pauli’s personal account of the tone and tenor of FACHEP’s message from his draft book chapter:

…some unexpected results were emerging from the point-of-use filter study: bacteria were growing in the filters that did not seem to belong there. …. bacteria associated with the mammalian gut (suggestive of some sort of fecal contamination), including species listed by the World Health Organization as being especially dangerous because of their resistance to antibiotics…. <Given t>he unforeseen discovery of potentially pathogenic bacteria, it seemed like <residents> were entitled to know about the findings while there was still time to take extra precautions, even though the results were preliminary and analysis ongoing.

Bursting Dr. Pauli’s bubble of fictitious drama, twenty-seven months later, FACHEP has still not published compelling data to support their claims about dangers of POU filtered water. In mid-2017, FACHEP admitted they still had no evidence of harmful bacteria or filter associated disease. As for the “unforeseen discovery of potentially pathogenic bacteria” and antibiotic resistance DNA, that was foreseeable by anyone who bothered to read a few papers about application of molecular methods to drinking water samples anywhere in the world. None of this should have been construed as unique to Flint POU filters.

Yet the most ridiculous parts of Dr. Love’s “story,” were implied black magical properties of POU filters installed only in Flint. First, there was a claim that in Flint, somehow the POU filters were recreating a warm, nutrient-rich ecosystem of a “mammalian gut,” thereby growing human fecal pathogens that would cause “Shigella-like disease” with “especially dangerous” antibiotic resistance. Or as Dr. Pauli wrote ominously, that Filter use in Flint was not…comparable to filter use elsewhere” and the situation was “abnormal.”

Second, was the illusion that mounting a POU filter to the end of a kitchen faucet in Flint, negated all upstream treatments and created a “single barrier” to dangerous bacteria (see slide). Love’s Flint library slide literally implies, that the filter installation, caused Detroit’s water treatment plants serving Flint to magically vanish (see page 3 of this link for descriptions of multibarrier bacteria treatments in Detroit). This was irresponsible.

Dr. Love also made no mention Flint was benefiting from enhanced chlorine dosing, enhanced corrosion control, and intense bacterial monitoring required by EPA in Flint from early 2016 onwards as implemented by relief agencies. No mention that legally-required coliform bacterial monitoring proved that there was highly effective bacteria control, with results so good, that coliform bacteria were undetectable in Flint water samples for 3 consecutive years.

Given all of the above, why was Dr. Love so focused on POU filter dangers in Flint?  Imagine what would have happened, if Dr. Love had held a press conference, articulating her fears that filtered Ann Arbor drinking water was so dangerous, her family had actually started boiling it before consumption. Or held a press conference, announcing that all 4 million consumers of Detroit water with POU filters (probably at least a million people), should also boil or UV treat their water, and not just the 0.1 million consumers receiving the same Detroit water (but with enhanced disinfection) in Flint. Of course, such assertions would have exposed Dr. Love as an alarmist crackpot. It was only in Flint, where FACHEP had carefully prepared the ground with 4 months of rumormongering, that such unbalanced claims could be taken seriously.

The takeaway message received by Flint residents who attended the meeting were that: 1) their lives may be in imminent danger, 2) Flint water treatment was grossly inadequate, 3) POU filters were providing only a “single barrier” of protection, 4) the “wrong” filters were selected by relief agencies, and 5) the filter itself was somehow turning good old Detroit water into mammalian excrement. It was therefore little surprise when one panicked resident called the State and askedif they were going to die because they were drinking out of the filters.” This logically built on Love and McElmurry’s proven track record in scaring residents like the Webbers, or the resident who literally abandoned her Flint home after talking with McElmurry.

DR. LOVE: IT IS MY FAULT

After a drive home, Dr. Love realized there may have been problems with how the presentation was delivered. She blamed her tendency to be “laser focused,”confessing:

“I don’t feel like I answered questions well, and didn’t say some of the things that were important to say…In the future, I will benefit from having a practice run on the presentation.  I don’t get nervous, but I get laser focused on a few things at the expense of everything else. There are times when my laser focus is beneficial, but this was not one of them.  Truly, I’ve been known to forget my name because I was so laser focused. Spending 2.5 hours with a red knuckle grip on the steering wheel coming up just primed my “laser focus” pump.”

McElmurry reassured Dr. Love that she “did great…. <and> it went about as good as could be expected.” He then proudly forwarded the WNEM story reporting how FACHEP was successful in destroying resident trust and creating needless fear about bacteria on the filters. The meeting was a grand success from the perspective of FACHEP’s leader and according to Dr. Pauli’s book.

DR. LOVE:  IT IS NOT MY FAULT

After Dr. Love’s fantastic story of mammalian gut feces hit Dr. Wells’ fan at 5 am the next day, everything had to be dropped by Dr. Wells to change FACHEP’s dirtied diapers yet again. Whatever humility Dr. Love expressed the night before, was replaced by a renewed “laser focus” to “deny responsibility, accuse and blame others, and maintain a facade of arrogance and conceit.”

Love emailed McElmurry that “from my point of view:

1. No new information was presented. Indeed, I held off on new information….

2. I remain perplexed how the information about the increase in bacteria across the filters is a surprise. Not only have we discussed this with them before, especially during the “you are going to release shigella data” kerfuffle, but did they not read ANY literature about filters before they decided to deploy 24,000 of them in Flint? Literature, papers, NSF Standards? Anything? This should not be a surprise and was the public health community’s responsibility when they decided to deploy an intervention that they do not understand.

3. I think I was balanced and measured and clear. Counts go up (not unusual for these filters) and we are looking at who those bacteria are. Again, this is absolutely not new. The only thing that is new is that the general public, not just those who we sampled, are now aware of what the state should have told citizens was a risk from the beginning.

This email reveals Dr. Love in full Dunning-Kruger glory. Based on 0 years of experience in drinking water public health crises, she constructs an alternate reality in which she is blameless, and all the relief agencies are incompetent and unethical. How dare the agencies not acknowledge Dr. Love as a great moral exemplar, engineering ethics philosopher, waterborne disease expert, and gifted risk communicator.

McElmurry then pounced on an opportunity to further gaslight Dr. Wells with another misrepresentation of reality: “I want to stress that no new information was presented…Overall, I think those that attended received the message and took it well. Obviously, we can’t control what others do with the information.”

Well, did FACHEP control the image of the multibarrier water treatment plant, disappearing after attaching a POU filter to a kitchen faucet? Did FACHEP control the message sent about the “cheap bastards” at the State of MI sponsoring their research? What about Dr. Sullivan’s “deluge of darkness that makes us afraid,” or FACHEP implying that filter use in Flint was unlike anything heretofore experienced in America?  And if Dr. Wells did not like it, well, then what—still more pointless pleading to FACHEP’s higher motives?

WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH FACHEP LEADERSHIP?

Still struggling for an explanation regarding FACHEP’s reckless unscientific behavior, even after all the mistakes exposed in Parts 1-8, we found information online consistent with an emerging pattern of behavior that gave rise to the FACHEP-instigated Wells and Lyon felony cases:

When caught in the act with their unscrupulous behavior, most sociopaths and psychopaths will not show signs of contrition or remorse… On the contrary, they are more likely to double or triple down on their aggressive tendencies, increase hostility, deny responsibility, accuse and blame others, and maintain a facade of arrogance and conceit. Interestingly, many sociopaths will invent a victimhood story for themselves:…Casting themselves as victims can help sociopaths and psychopaths to defend their immoral conduct.

While we are not psychologists and cannot render a diagnosis, we nonetheless consider the above helpful, in providing a plausible hypothesis for behavior of this quintessential team of academic crybullies.

And to think that all of the above was accomplished from just 24 hours of Dr. Love unfiltered. After her first public taste of FACHEP glory, Love and McElmurry laid plans for an extraordinarily productive month. Over the holidays, when most of the world was taking a break, FACHEP would be working overtime to “double and triple down” on the Flint POU filter manifesto and inventing an epic story of victimhood.

Supporting Documents:

FACHEP December 14 Press Conference Handout

FOIA Packet

Primary Author: Dr. Marc Edwards

Wayne State University Response to Questions

Wayne State University has released another press release in response to our questions. This follows a prior press release last week (that was retracted less than 24 hours after posting) endorsed by other FACHEP faculty asserting that we were “bullies” and spreading “false information” and deserving of sanctions for our supposed “unethical” behavior. In the new press release, Wayne State University writes:

Dr. McElmurry is a committed scientist and educator, and an academician of the highest character.  We have the utmost respect for the commitment and character of Dr. McElmurry…

Even the newer press release does NOT provide a specific response to any of our questions. Also, for the record, a month ago, we did alert Wayne State to our concerns related to repeated public claims of McElmurry’s work experience “in Flint” from 2010-2014. We have received no response to this day.

We provide the entire press release below:

Wayne State University statement on accusations

April 4, 2018

Statements questioning the personal integrity of Shawn McElmurry, Ph.D. (Department of Civil Engineering, Wayne State University) and research conducted while he was a leader of the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP) team have been posted on the internet and widely circulated.

Wayne State University typically does not respond to postings on independent websites.  These posts, however, were widely shared, and include unacceptable, inappropriate and vitriolic personal attacks on an individual faculty member. We feel it is necessary to defend our faculty member against these personal attacks.

Dr. McElmurry is a committed scientist and educator, and an academician of the highest character.  We have the utmost respect for the commitment and character of Dr. McElmurry and the FACHEP research team.

As scientists and members of the community, we all have a responsibility to maintain the highest standards in all we do.

We have no doubt that Dr. McElmurry and his colleagues take this responsibility very seriously, and work tirelessly toward these goals for the public good.

Questions regarding the integrity of research projects are best reviewed in accordance with established procedures. This involves reviewing the facts and making informed conclusions for the benefit of the broad communities we serve. Wayne State has not received a formal request to investigate the Flint water infrastructure project. If we do, we will evaluate the credibility of the request and follow our established protocol as appropriate.