From Hero To Pariah, Flint Water Expert Fights For His Reputation: Some Additional Insights

The Detroit News just published a story related to this FACHEP blog series. We want to emphasize and expand on a few key points related to our evolving investigative science work.

1. Dr. McElmurry and WSU, have still not provided a shred of evidence, supporting McElmurry’s written claim of working “in Flint” from 2010-2015. Nor have they resolved inconsistencies in his testimony under oath in Wells or Lyon criminal case about prior work “in Flint.” McElmurry continues his pattern of evasion and deflection in the Detroit News article:

“It is critical that the public trust our work,” <McElmurry> said in a statement. “Unsubstantiated accusations against researchers or members of the community do not help advance scientific understanding.”

2. FACHEP has not refuted a single fact, from the mountains of information we have painstakingly gathered and transparently presented. Every accusation has been substantiated. While we understand that FACHEP wants the public to trust their work, is such trust justified? Have Michigan taxpayers, or the cause of justice, benefitted from the millions and millions spent on FACHEP and their crybully felony criminal cases?  

3. Spoiler Alert: Dr. Edwards and Dr. Wells did separately demand, in writing, that FACHEP public correct their false public scientific rumors in May 2017. This was after both endured 6+ months of public and private FACHEP strategic maligning. Mr. Donnelly accurately characterizes Dr. Edwards demand as an ultimatum, that FACHEP leadership (Drs. McElmurry/Love) refused to issue a correction, and that Dr. Edwards fulfilled his written vow to correct the record publicly and transparently. This entire series would have been avoided, if Drs. McElmurry/Love had corrected FACHEP false statements and personal attacks in May 2017.

4. The article makes an unspecified FACHEP claim that Dr. Edwards is “unwilling to entertain new research.” Is FACHEP referencing their novel hypotheses that the Shigella outbreak, rashes and respiratory problems arose from the POU filters in Flint? Is it referencing McElmurry’s false quotes about chlorine standards, or FACHEP’s advice to “boil water” before drinking it or bathing in it, or their unsubstantiated claim of “abnormal” bacteria in Flint? We remain perplexed.

5. In relation to Water Defense (as in the case of FACHEP), Dr. Edwards went to great lengths to avoid a public confrontation. Mr. Smith and Flintwaterstudy have since reconciled. We shared our story in a guest blog post, in news articles, and even co-authored a “Lesson’s Learned” section of a peer reviewed publication on Citizen Science. The public confrontation with Water Defense was painful for everyone. Unfortunately, we deemed it necessary. The public confrontation with FACHEP is also unfortunate and necessary. We believe that the harm done by the FACHEP PhD’s, dwarfs any harm done by Water Defense, by orders of magnitude.

6. Dr. Ben Pauli (Kettering), still cowardly refuses to acknowledge, whether he personally instigated or co-authored the Flintcomplaints letter he once attributed to “residents.” Pauli equivocates to the Detroit News as follows:

“Pauli said he and others wrote the second letter but wouldn’t say whether he penned the first. He said the more important issue was the fact that so many residents had signed it. “The authorship is not what matters,” he said. “What matters is what the letter says. That’s where the focus should be.”

We feel it does matter. If Dr. Pauli instigated and ghost-authored the “residents” letter, to retaliate against Dr. Edwards’ for blowing the whistle on FACHEP, as is clearly indicated in the timeline of the NJIT withheld email FOIA– that revelatory information was not shared with the STEM organizations who were asked to investigate Dr. Edwards. Perhaps Dr. Pauli is reluctant to take credit, for a letter that a Federal judge determined was partisan rhetorical hyperbole.

Thankfully, Dr. Pauli has finally fessed up, to allegations made in our prior blog, that he ghost-authored the second letter to maximize reputational damage to Dr. Edwards. And in just a few weeks, Dr. Pauli will begin to cash in on his campaign of dishonesty, because Sambla says his $95 hardcover “Flint” book with false narratives about FACHEP and the ghost-authored letters goes on sale. This is a truly new and innovative, academic model, to exploit the Flint tragedy for personal gain. 

7. Dr. Lambrinidou’s personal vendetta, is best examined through her own words and emails. Interested parties may read them and decide for themselves. Her lawyer has obtained copies of those unaltered public records from FOIA. If emails were doctored, that could be easily proven– but the emails were not doctored. 

The Tragi-Comedy of McElmurry’s Flint Hydraulic Model

The FOIA case Edwards vs. Wayne State University (WSU) continues to shed light on the disturbing story of Dr. McElmurry’s Flint Hydraulic Model, his qualifications, and rigor of FACHEP research.  

We previously detailed how McElmurry’s false claims about possessing a complete Flint hydraulic model in early October 2015, snowballed from first obtaining Dr. Edwards’ assistance to win an NIH grant, to leadership of FACHEP, to numerous examples of McElmurry’s incompetence executing Flint work, to attacks on Dr. Edwards’ reputation, to the crybully FACHEP-instigated felony cases against Wells and Lyon.

On the basis of the evidence we had gathered back in March 2018, a LARA investigator concluded:

… McElmurry overstated his prior involvement in City of Flint’s drinking water system and contamination issues. These overstatements were intended to …substantiate large research awards/funds for Wayne State University and other contributors.

….under oath and in response to the LARA Complaint, McElmurry has been unable to substantiate prior City of Flint experience….these overstatements regarding City of Flint experience are deemed to be “misrepresentations”….

Gathering additional knowledge about McElmurry’s misrepresentations has been impeded by WSU repeatedly violating Michigan FOIA law to hide public documents. Mr. Patrick Wright and Derk Wilcox at Mackinac Center Legal Foundation have forced release of many documents without charge to Flintwaterstudy. We herein provide the latest on McElmurry’s Flint hydraulic model story. 

WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT THE FLINT HYDRAULIC MODEL?

During a drinking water crisis and in its aftermath, predicting how water flows through a city’s potable water distribution system pipes, can help protect public health from lead, Legionella and other health risks. A “hydraulic model” is a computer program, usually based on EPANET software, that allows a user to obtain scientific insights useful for decision-making (e.g., see EPA presentation slides from January 2017).

Creating a complete hydraulic model for a city like Flint requires months to years of effort, detailed local knowledge, and true expertise in software and hydraulics. However, using a hydraulic model is something most undergraduate engineering students can learn in a day or two. EPA regularly hosts workshops teaching novices how to use EPANET hydraulic models.

When Dr. Edwards first started to collaborate with Mr. Howard Croft (Director of Public Works) at the City of Flint, their first email (September 10, 2015) discussed the poor and “in progress” status of Flint’s hydraulic model. Croft sent Edwards a LAN Engineering “water age” map dated January 21, 2015, and told him it was so inaccurate, it should not be shared publicly without a prominent disclaimer it was just a “conceptual map.” Croft told  Edwards the water age was erroneous, because “dozens of valves were frozen shut,” and the map should not be used “for anything scientific.”

Thus, when Dr. McElmurry first introduced himself to Edwards and to NIH a few weeks later (October 7-10, 2015), with a written statement he had “a complete hydraulic model of Flint’s drinking water system” due to “5 years” of work in Flint (see Table below), he was asserting a claim of extraordinary intellectual property and expertise. Mountains were moved by Edwards, the State of Michigan and others, based on McElmurry’s completely false claim, to give McElmurry funding and power that could be used to benefit residents of Flint and assist the disaster response. This put the WSU/McElmurry funding and power grab snowball into motion. Below is an updated timeline of McElmurry’s ever changing claims about Flint hydraulic models.

Updated Timeline of McElmurry’s Conflicting Statements on the Flint Hydraulic Model (Newest information in red)

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 from 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 was 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 systemWe will utilize this model….”
11/2/2015 From McElmurry’s NIH Proposal:  “Through previous work by the PI in Flint, the project team has unique access to the Flint water distribution system details..and has initiated the <hydraulic> modeling effort.”
4/22/2016 McElmurry email to City of Flint:  “…it doesn’t make sense for us to continue to develop our EPANET <hydraulic Flint> model….” because EPA is creating one
2/13/2017 McElmurry to co-author on what became the peer reviewed PNAS paper:  “Without the <Flint hydraulic> water model..I am left with..the <January 21 2015> water age map developed by LAN… (of course..<our work> could be improved greatly with a full hydraulic model)…”
8/5/2017 Masten emails McElmurry about what became the PNAS Paper: “EPA has the hydraulic model running-if you could get that…you would have a far better estimate…” of water age. McElmurry would not wait to get the EPA hydraulic 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>..”
2/2018 PNAS Peer Reviewed Paper Description Falsely Implies It Used the Best Available EPA hydraulic model: ..“we develop a monitor-to-parcel assignment algorithm that leverages best available information on parcel occupancy/vacancy, residence time of water (i.e. water age), and the Flint water distribution system pipe network”
3/13/2018 McElmurry Presentation at Michigan State University (MSU) Seminar: Provided first indication, that McElmurry has finally obtained the EPA hydraulic model.
4/30/2018 McElmurry’s written response to LARA Investigator about his false claims back in October 2015: “..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 written claim to Edwards:  “McElmurry had no hydraulic …model” in 2015
4/10/2019 McElmurry sworn statements about slides WSU is withholding, from an October 2017 presentation. I “was provided the initial <hydraulic> model pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with the City of Flint. After receiving the model, I modified conditions (input), selected parameters that were reported by the model (output), and presented same at the Symposium.”

To our shock, WSU finally admitted in writing August 8, 2018, that McElmurry never had a Flint “hydraulic model” in 2015. That left two complete hydraulic models of the Flint water distribution system that we are aware of: Dr. Faust’s model which McElmurry obtained October 8, 2015, and the EPA Flint Hydraulic Model created during the Federal Emergency presented at the January 10, 2017 EPA data summit (results are  available online). So we started to wonder about what hydraulic model FACHEP used in their Flint research.

Summary of Flint Water Age Data Sources

Model name Date Available How McElmurry obtained model and its uses
1. LAN Water Age “Conceptual Model” January 21, 2015 Obtained indirectly from Edwards, who it was given to with a caveat it should not be used “for anything scientific.” FACHEP relied on it for drafts of February 2018 FACHEP PNAS paper, and probably the final version of the paper. 
2. Faust Complete Hydraulic Model October 8, 2015 Sent by email October 8, 2015 from Dr. Faust to McElmurry. Used by McElmurry to get Edwards support, win NIH grant, obtain leadership of FACHEP.  
3. EPA Complete Hydraulic Model January 2017 EPA spent months developing this complete hydraulic model during the Federal emergency.  Best estimate is McElmurry obtained this model after PNAS paper was published in early 2018. 

WHAT “HYDRAULIC MODEL” WAS USED IN FACHEP’S PNAS PAPER

In February 2018, FACHEP published a peer reviewed scientific paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) examining the Flint Legionella Outbreak. The PNAS paper implies that it used the “best available” hydraulic model, but cloaks which model in mystery as follows (emphasis added):   

To test the loss of chlorine hypothesis, we develop a monitor-to-parcel assignment algorithm that leverages best available information on parcel occupancy/vacancy, residence time of water (i.e. water age), and the Flint water distribution system pipe network (see Fig. S2).

Did FACHEP use the Faust or the EPA hydraulic model? Incredibly, after spending millions and millions of dollars of NIH and FACHEP funding, we were sickened to discover that it appears the answer is: neither one.

Through FOIA we discovered that the erroneous January 21, 2015 LAN “conceptual model” graph, was given from Croft to Edwards to Mona Hanna-Attisha to Rick Sadler (FACHEP) to Dr. McElmurry. FACHEP then used that erroneous 2015 LAN water age “conceptual model,” for what turned into their PNAS paper.

Internal email discussions of McElmurry and first author on the PNAS paper, Dr. Zahran, openly acknowledge the serious problems with using that erroneous 2015 data obtained from Dr. Edwards. McElmurry suggests that using this data is “a reasonable approach given the limited data we have available (2/13/2017),” and Zahran admits this is really  “the best possible work around in the absence of data required to develop a defensible water model (6/22/2017).” In other words, McElmurry/Zahran know, they are proceeding with a scientific analysis on the PNAS paper without a “defensible hydraulic model.” This is indefensible.

The originators of the January 2015 water “conceptual map” went even further.  In reference to an updated August 2015 version of the Flint hydraulic model, LAN engineering stated (page 16)

“LAN…developed preliminary water age results throughout the entire system. ..However, LAN has also identified several issues affecting the model that require further attention to allow for usable and reliable results. Revised results will be provided when the hydraulic model has been fully updated….in Sept-Oct, 2015.”

This further reinforces the fact that the January 2015 Flint water age map was known to be inaccurate in mid- 2015.

Dr. Masten (MSU), who was a co-author on the PNAS paper, was completely unaware that Dr. Edwards was the source of the January 21, 2015 datafile, or that the city said it should never be used for any scientific analysis. But Dr. Masten determined on her own, that the manuscript was “seriously flawed” due to obvious errors in how it handled “water age.”

On August 5, 2017, Zahran admitted to Masten, that “We were aware of this weakness – that is, reliance on weak water age information….” After Dr. Masten’s stated that they should obtain and use the EPA hydraulic model (available January 2017) to make a “far better estimate of water age,” the authors refused. Therefore, the written claim in the PNAS paper that FACHEP was using the “best available information” for their analysis, appears to be false. The information they were using, was not acceptable for a scientific analysis back in 2015, and it certainly should not have been used for a PNAS scientific paper published February 2018. 

We even found an email from October 28, 2015 from Croft to McElmurry, after Edwards had invited McElmurry into the inner circle of Flint researchers, where it was explicitly documented in writing that the city needed to verify broken valve locations for <the water age hydraulic> model from LAN to be accurate,” and again noting Flint’s hydraulic model was still “in progress.” Dr. McElmurry, was therefore fully aware that the January 2015 LAN conceptual map was unscientific, even as he was telling Edwards and others that he had created a complete Flint hydraulic model. Yet, in 2017, he knowingly used this erroneous data, obtained from Dr. Edwards, as a basis for the PNAS paper.

On December 8, 2017, Dr. Masten explicitly asked whether the water age data from the erroneous January 21, 2015 “conceptual map,” was used as a scientific basis for the PNAS paper analysis. The authors refused to directly answer her question and also would not use the EPA hydraulic model. Dr. Masten courageously withdrew her name from the PNAS paper as a co-author.

HYDRAULIC MODEL SLIDES ARE MCELMURRY’s INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

When the 2018 PNAS paper was published, WSU celebrated their FACHEP crybully hero narrative with an unusual press release:

“This abandonment of basic human and civil rights by those who once had the public trust led to water quality, safety and access issues that endangered the public health. In the midst of this maelstrom, a group of engineers along with medical, public health and social scientists assembled a research team <FACHEP> to pursue answers to problems that others would rather leave unexamined. The authors of these papers….affirmed the higher purpose of science — to expand knowledge and serve the common good.”

Ever since, WSU has made extraordinary efforts, to block better public understanding about this PNAS paper, and the nature of McElmurry’s repeated misrepresentations about the hydraulic model through FOIA. Here is an update on recent revelatory obfuscation.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY?  We previously reported and later updated, the absurd legal gymnastics that WSU is using, to withhold 4 powerpoint slides that Dr. McElmurry presented publicly at a Michigan State University symposium in October 2017. WSU initially claimed that these 4 slides had to be withheld to protect McElmurry’s “intellectual property.” We filed to force release of the 4 slides and WSU/McElmurry has now responded.

WSU admits that 2 of the slides they are fighting to keep hidden, are of McElmurry’s hydraulic model results. In a sworn affidavit April 10, 2019, McElmurry writes (see page 28 of 73, point 15; emphasis added): 

15. Slides 22 and 23 contain results of my manipulations of a <Flint hydraulic> model simulation showing the flow of water within the City of Flint and the pipe network that constitutes the municipal drinking water system within the City. I was provided the initial model pursuant to a memorandum of understanding with the City of Flint. After receiving the model, I modified conditions (input), selected parameters that were reported by the model (output), and presented same at the Symposium.

WSU is now claiming that using a Flint hydraulic model that someone else created, constitutes McElmurry’s “intellectual property.” This is consistent with McElmurry’s past practice, of changing a border on a slide taken from Flintwaterstudy and presenting it as his own work. And we wonder, which hydraulic model was being used in the withheld slides, since as far as we know, only Dr. Faust’s model was available to him at that time? Did he give appropriate credit to whoever created the model, or was he once again, “confused,” implying it was his model?

PROTECTING THE SECURITY AND SAFETY OF THE RESIDENTS OF FLINT?  In response to Dr. Edwards’ offer to sign a non-disclosure agreement for permission to see the slides McElmurry already presented publicly, assuaging McElmurry’s intellectual property claim, WSU created a new argument. WSU stated that releasing the slides could endanger Flint residents to a terrorist attack (page 23 of 73):

…exemption exists in order to protect…capabilities and plans for responding to a violation of the Michigan anti-terrorism act…Once released, even on a limited basis,..the City of Flint’s ability to protect the safety and security of its residents is compromised. …slides 22 and 23 are subject to protection for this additional reason.

Interestingly, EPA posts slides of its Flint hydraulic model simulations on the internet and freely shares Flint hydraulic model presentations with anyone requesting them. We can only imagine, what on earth, could McElmurry have entered into the hydraulic model, developed by someone else, that created “top secret” intellectual property that could wreak havoc in the hands of terrorists plotting to attack Flint? And if it was “top secret,” why did McElmurry present it publicly, at a graduate research symposium? By their own definition, they’ve clearly committed a major security breach.   

Dr. ROY HYDRAULIC MODEL FOIA SAGA. For more than a year, we have been trying to get emails about possible conflicting statements McElmurry made to his WSU colleagues, related to Faust’s hydraulic model (see details here). The latest excuse to Dr. Roy? The cost to produce a few weeks of emails from October 2015 and two other documents, would be $6,710.65.  

DR. McELMURRY’s TRUE HYDRAULIC MODELING EXPERTISE REVEALED

Potentially adding insult to injury, for those harmed directly and indirectly by McElmurry’s misrepresentations, a witness recently disclosed to us that Dr. McElmurry attended a September 2018 EPA workshop, intended to train novices who want to learn how to use an EPANET hydraulic model. The witness also claimed to have an email, listing the EPANET trainees, that includes Dr. McElmurry. We have submitted a FOIA to obtain this document.

If this story from our reliable source proves to be true, it would a fitting ending to this tragi-comedic real life story of McElmurry’s hydraulic model. The same person who falsely claimed to have created extraordinary intellectual property in the form of a “complete Flint hydraulic model” back in October 2015, but who then likely used flawed “water age” data from a January 2015 “conceptual model” via Dr. Edwards for a PNAS peer reviewed paper, finally attends an EPA workshop in September 2018 geared towards helping novices learn the basics of how to use a hydraulic model.

All documents cited above:

Primary Author: Dr. Marc A. Edwards

Part XII. What Wonders Love Hath Wrought

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 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 1-11

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 10: Conclusion of First LARA Investigation into Dr. McElmurry

Part 11: ENGINEERING ETHICS: FACHEP → FLINTCOMPLAINTS → RHETORICAL HYPERBOLE


Part XII. What Wonders Love Hath Wrought

(December 15, 2016 to January 10, 2017)

Editors Note: Last week we discussed how Dr. Edwards’ FACHEP-instigated defamation case ended.  This week we reveal how it began, with a phone call January 6th, 2017. Please note that we do not sell POU filters, we supported grants to Love/McElmurry to conduct POU filter research in Flint, and we are presently conducting POU filter research of our own. There are legitimate scientific questions surrounding all engineering interventions that deserve to be assessed with responsible science. It is irresponsible science that we have a problem with, especially if poorly conducted research is to become the basis of felony criminal charges, needless fearmongering, and serial strategic rumormongering.


“May God have mercy on your soul.”

Dr. Edwards read the above concluding statement to his very first Flint Water Crisis hate email on January 10, 2017 at 1:25 pm. It was not to be the last. The email asked him to “fess up” and “ease his conscience” because Flint “water is not safe to bathe in” and that the humanitarian POU filter “treatment of the water has caused bacteria issues.” It went on to claim that Edwards was “poisoning children” and causing “countless other horrendous affects” and warned of eternal damnation. 

Over the next few hours and days, more hateful emails trickled in, one of which had a helpful hint to “Watch your back” because (misspelling in original):

“…Wayne State <FACHEP> found dangerous bacteria in the filters causing rashes and shigell. The enterobactracie are obnormal and the water has to be boiled or UV’d or else we will diel. But you and the state hide the TRUTH! You have been bought and paid for and we now how to take care of peope like you. Stay out of Flint. We dont trust you any more. I hope you will DIE!

Upon reading the first message, Edwards was shocked, puzzled, and confused. He received the email during the Flint EPA Data Summit Meeting in Chicago at the EPA Region 5 Headquarters.  Coincidentally, when he looked up from his Dell laptop, FACHEP’s Drs. Love, Zervos and McElmurry were facing him across the conference tables. Just minutes before, these same three FACHEP faculty had agreed that the Flint water was “much improved” and that Flint residents should keep using the POU filters. So what on earth was going on?

Perplexed, immediately after the meeting was over, Edwards approached the three FACHEP faculty at a Chicago airport gate, informing them of the threatening emails and other rumors. Their faces were completely expressionless and unsurprised, except for Dr. Love, who flashed a satisfied smirk.

As will be revealed below, Love had been working overtime on her filter bacteria fear campaign, which FACHEP had first rolled out December 14, 2016 at the Flint library. Love decided that Edwards was an obstacle to her Flint filter manifesto, and he would pay a price for it.

DR. LOVE’s “PEER REVIEWED” FILTER MANIFESTO PAPER

After scaring residents at the Flint library on December 14, 2016, with her misunderstandings of drinking water treatment and alarmist messages about filter dangers (see blog 9), Love was becoming increasingly frustrated that the relief agencies (FEMA, MDEQ, CDC, EPA, MDHSS and GCHD) would not acknowledge her brilliance as a waterborne disease and engineering ethics expert. They simply refused to endorse her predetermined conclusion that filtered Flint water should be boiled before use.

The first crafty attempt to require “boil filtered water” recommendations to many Flint residents, was through revisions to IRB protocols associated with FACHEP sampling. That attempt failed December 23, 2016 at 2 am in the morning, when Wells said such recommendations could only be given based on a positive E. Coli result.

Thus, Love devised a new strategy to completely circumvent the relief agencies, whom she considered incompetent and unethical because, in her opinion, they had “decided to deploy an intervention <POU filters in Flint> that they do not understand.” She would submit her “filter manifesto” manuscript to Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T) Letters, a journal known for rapid review and publication of “hot-topic” short-form papers.

She had been in communication with the journal editor, and indicated to her co-authors that he was “expecting” the manuscript submission by December 26, 2016 for a fast track review. If all went well, the paper could be published online before an upcoming EPA data summit (January 10, 2017) and Flint town hall meeting (January 11, 2017). In essence, the goal was to launch a sneak attack on the relief agencies at the January 10-11, 2017 meetings, forcing her recommendations on them with the authority of an accepted peer-reviewed journal article.

There were two problems with Love’s plan: schedule and legality. Submitting the manuscript by evening December 26th was a tall order. It was not until 1 pm on Christmas Eve that Drs. Love and McElmurry had decided on first authorship of the paper. At 4 pm on Christmas Eve, they informed Dr. Olson (University of Michigan) of the proposed authorship order and that:

Shawn will be sending out the paper yet today- we’re trying to tone down the “political” statements at the end by keeping in the objective parts and removing the opinionated parts. We’ll need final feedback by Monday <December 26th> and upload it <that night>.

For those unfamiliar with the process, the idea of providing 10 co-authors a still incomplete draft of a peer-reviewed journal paper on Christmas Eve and expecting “final feedback” by December 26th is nothing short of absurd. Masten even spent much of her Christmas Day adding her contributions to the paper.

Legally, FACHEP was also required to submit papers to MDHSS for review 30 days before any paper could be submitted to a journal. Masten repeatedly expressed alarm about the ethics and legality of ignoring that specific contract language, but Love dismissed Masten’s concerns by asserting that they would claim that FACHEP’s co-authors (Pauli, Kilgore and Zervos) did work on the ES&T Letters paper “pro bono,” while everyone else would claim they were financially covered on the NSF POU filter grant.

Ultimately, Love submitted the manuscript on December 28th, 2016, without Masten approving of this ethically dubious scheme or the final version of the paper (it is unclear if all other co-authors did approve, as required by the journal). Masten immediately reported her legal concerns to MSU administrators. When questioned, McElmurry claimed:

Because this manuscript was developed independently of the State of Michigan work, the funding agreement with the State is not applicable and there is no reason to solicit MDHHS review.  On a side note, I maintain a close working relationship with the MDHHS and have already discussed these results with them; they are fully aware of this work.

The emails below make us doubt the truthfulness of this statement.

FACHEP TO DR. WELLS: NOTHING NEW ABOUT POU FILTER RISKS

By this point, Dr. Wells was probably beginning to realize that her sanity and legal jeopardy, would depend on developing a 6th sense relative to FACHEP antics and dishonesty. On January 5th, 2017, she correctly sensed something was amiss in relation to the upcoming meetings at Chicago (EPA) and in Flint, and explicitly emailed McElmurry and Love, desperately trying to pin them down on future plans regarding POU filter messaging.

For example, Wells asked the professors three very basic yet important questions:

  1. What is the threat <they are trying to fix>?
  2. Is the threat isolated to Flint, or to all users of <POU> filters in any county or state?
  3. What risk to health is being mitigated by the flushing?

In response to each of these perfectly reasonable questions posed, McElmurry and Love responded “Unknown, unknown, unknown.”

Significantly, at no point did McElmurry mention their ES&T Letters paper, which Masten had just argued that they were legally obligated to disclose to MDHSS 30 days prior to submission. This confirms our suspicion that the paper was written specifically to blind side Dr. Wells and the relief agencies. Note that in her response to Masten, Love wrote that the paper would “get a reaction no matter what,” and that <Love> was “not worried about the State <of MI>.

FACHEP TO DR. EDWARDS: EVERYTHING NEW ABOUT FILTER RISKS

On January 5th, 2017, just eight minutes before writing the above email to Dr. Wells, McElmurry and Love emailed Edwards and asked for a “Quick phone call before the January 10th <EPA data summit> meeting.” In the call, Love and McElmurry would assert that they were upending the conventional wisdom about POU filter risks–completely contradicting their written claims of “Unknown, unknown, unknown” risks to Wells.

In the email, McElmurry half-apologized for not following up with Edwards’ earlier December 8th request for an immediate cell phone call to discuss why FACHEP would not agree that Flint water was improving. McElmurry claimed that “the preholiday crunch didn’t leave me anytime to explain.

Of course, McElmurry did not tell Edwards how FACHEP was already using a false story about that same email to smear Edwards, by claiming Edwards asked McElmurry to sign a document claiming that Flint water was “safe.” He also did not reveal that, while FACHEP would privately tell other scientists that Flint water was obviously “much improved,” they would publicly state the exact opposite in order to win over Flint activists and gleefully malign Edwards.

In the ensuing phone call January 6th, 2017, Edwards was completely stunned by Love and McElmurry’s ignorance of basic water treatment principles and false assumptions about Flint POU filter use. Love told Edwards that FACHEP would soon have a peer-reviewed paper showing there were dangerous bacteria” in Flint POU filters. She spewed nonsense about filters as a “single barrier” that left Flint residents in imminent danger, and indicated FACHEP would soon tell residents to “boil filtered water” in order to protect themselves.

Love further asserted that the type of POU filter distributed by relief agencies was inappropriate for the situation in Flint and that such filters were not widely used elsewhere in America. Edwards immediately corrected that inaccurate statement, verbally and immediately after the phone call in writing. To repeat for emphasis, on January 6th, 2017, Drs. Love and McElmurry appeared unaware that the type of POU filters distributed in Flint, were voluntarily purchased and installed in tens of millions of U.S. homes to remove lead and disinfection by-products (DBPs).

In later email exchanges with McElmurry and Love, Edwards provided references they were unaware of, indicating that Enterobacter DNA on filters should not be considered “abnormal” based on principles of MOBE 101 and research by Pruden/Edwards team (and many others) showing such DNA was common in tap water across the US.

Summarizing the essence of the shocking phone call to his colleague, Pruden, Edwards wrote: “Nancy <Love> at her worst.

FACHEP: POU FILTERS CAUSE RASHES/RESPIRATORY PROBLEMS

Extremely concerned, Edwards broadened the email conversation to include Dr. Wells (MDHSS) and EPA, who FACHEP was also intentionally keeping in the dark about the ES&T Letters submittal and associated plans.  Edwards wrote to all parties:

In the call you <FACHEP> also speculated that there is a problem with fecal contamination in the Flint system, due to main breaks or other deficiencies, If the Flint water system is currently unusually fecal contaminated and compromised…, then the Flint water is dangerous with or without the filters. If you actually discover fecal bacteria, the accepted response is to increase chlorine and/or issue boil water orders…

The residents also have received a message from your team, that you think the filter bacteria might be causing their rashes and respiratory problems.

Edwards then phoned Dr. Wells, who for the first time, confided her frustration about FACHEP’s irresponsible undermining of the relief efforts with Edwards. She noted Love showed disrespect for input from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), like CDC’s Dr. Michael Beach. Wells sounded utterly exhausted, and apparently had no choice but to try and work with FACHEP as best she could. 

After her conversation with Edwards, Wells then emailed the FACHEP faculty and CDC’s Jevon McFadden

FACHEP and UM Team, These <Edwards points> are precisely the concerns that I raised at our Friday morning meeting. …There was definitely a problem with communication at your town meeting that implicated somehow rashes and respiratory diseases were associated with filter bacteria….

McElmurry’s response to Wells was superficially conciliatory, feigning confusion about where on earth residents could have ever been given the idea that rashes and other disease were coming from filters:

We understand there is some confusion and likely misinterpretation that arose from our meeting on December 14. We are not entirely clear about where exactly the misunderstanding about rashes and respiratory illness comes from…

Recall that McElmurry himself caused the Webber’s to believe that the POU filters were causing Staph infections.  And the very next day, McElmurry was essentially contradicted by Dr. Zervos in writing, who revealed that FACHEP was standing by its comments that there were a host of “atypical” bacteria supposedly found on Flint filters causing rashes and respiratory problems, responding January 9th at 7 am:

I stand by my comments, Eden do you have any information that rash incidence is down in Flint…

Dr. Wells responded by (sic):

 …Here’s the issue Marcus, is that exactly what about bacteria and filters causes rashes…you’re making a leap that somehow Bactrian filters causes rash disease and I would like to know where your information is coming from. Again – anecdotes or not acceptable-   Please provide me the clinical information that shows the bacteria on a filter causes rashes or respiratory diseases. 

Not backing down, Zervos wrote back (8:00 am):

we should not accept organisms like klebsiella and Enterobacter, and atypical mycobacteria and enterococcus in potable water amplified by filters as safe. ….Enterocccus among other bacteria that Nancy found are fecal indicators.

Wells immediately responded (8:02 am):

Again you’re making an unfounded association and implication where there isn’t one. What you’re essentially saying is that eczema, of which I am a sufferer, can be due to the use of my filter and that people who have been using bacteria filters for the last three decades may likely be getting eczema from their water filters?

At that point, the back and forth suddenly stopped, because unbeknownst to Dr. Wells, FACHEP received an email from ES&T Letters.

LOVE’S FILTER MANIFESTO IMPLODES

On January 9th, 2017 at 9:07 am, Dr. Love received the following email from the Editor, about her Flint filter manifesto paper.

Dear Dr. Love:

…I regret to inform you that the manuscript cannot be accepted for publication in ES&T Letters….the reviewers all expressed serious reservations regarding the suitability of your manuscript for publication. Their major concerns were:

1. The finding that bacterial numbers are initially elevated in water from a filter is not novel or important. This has been well known for many years, and numbers of bacteria alone tell you nothing about the safety of the water.

2. The finding that the filters are working as expected is not particularly a novel result. <Given that such a paper would stimulate>…fears of bacterial “contamination” (which may or more likely may not be harmful), rapid publication of an incomplete story is a concern.

In an instant, Love’s plans to unveil her paper at the January 10 EPA data summit and January 11, 2017 Town Hall meeting imploded. Even worse, all four anonymous reviewers had the exact same opinion that had been expressed to Love by the relief agencies for 6 straight months.

Love later wrote her co-authors:

I’m not surprised by the reviews since, as Shawn knows, I was uncomfortable with parts of it….this gap was obvious to the reviewers…I know we had a strategy for why we wanted this paper out quickly and by January 10…Going forward, I only want to put papers in when the data are ready…

The mourning over the rejection of their ES&T Letters filter manifesto manuscript dream was apparently brief.  With renewed vigor, the team launched a delusional crybully tale, in which Edwards was the villain responsible for their paper being rejected, and Love was a “silenced” victim heroically fighting for Flint residents. Despite the fact that there were 4 anonymous reviews on the paper, Dr. Zervos later recommended that the group shouldresubmit <the filter paper> somewhere else and ask for Edwards not to be a reviewer because there is a conflict of interest.”

The death threats and emails declaring Edwards’ soul to be eternally damned, for somehow silencing Dr. Love’s alleged discovery of abnormal bacteria on the Flint POU filters, literally started the day after her filter manifesto manuscript was rejected by ES&T Letters.  Ironically, when he opened the first emails, he was sitting in a Chicago meeting where the FACHEP faculty were publicly stating one position, while their rumormongering to Flint residents was communicating the exact opposite position.

DR. LOVE IN THE DRAFT BOOK “FLINT FIGHTS BACK”

Pauli’s draft book chapter once again provides revelatory insights into the lies FACHEP told themselves and Flint residents. First, there is not one word in the book chapter, about FACHEP’s POU filter fearmongering being soundly rejected in a peer-reviewed article submitted in late December 2016.

Pauli was a co-author on the manuscript, so this omission should not be due to lack of knowledge on his part; however, we found no record he ever read or approved the ES&T Letters manuscript. The very fact that a social scientist, specializing in anarchy and radicalism, was co-author  of a peer-reviewed technical paper is also a mystery, except that he was deftly using Love’s filter manifesto as a prop in his Flint anarchy experiments. 

In relation to the January 6th phone call between Love, McElmurry, and Edwards that is meticulously documented with emails herein, Pauli writes (read the last page here):

Worried that Edwards was “backing himself into a corner” by rushing to judgment before all the <POU filter bacteria> data were in, McElmurry and Love tried to get him to reconsider his position on a conference call in the lead up to the Chicago <January 10th 2016 EPA data> summit.

“That just failed,” Love recalls. “He just didn’t wanna hear it.” Instead, at the summit Edwards accused FACHEP of causing “much of Flint” to lose faith in the filters, offering only anecdotal evidence.

If anyone was backed into a corner, it was Dr. Love, who with no significant experience, took a scientific position on POU filters contrary to a unified consensus position of WHO, FEMA, CDC, EPA, MDEQ, MDHHS, GCHD and Dr. Edwards during a water emergency. And who on earth was “rushing to judgment,” if not Dr. Love, who drove colleagues to give up their holidays, to submit a rush job paper she was “uncomfortable” with using data that was not “ready”?

And the clear purpose of that phone call was to tell Edwards the data were all in, the ES&T Letters paper was coming, and that VT should start telling Flint residents to boil filtered water.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

By January 2017, Dr. Love and FACHEP had literally invested 6 months of effort into rumormongering about alleged dangers of the POU filters in Flint. Many Flint residents believed that WSU/UM, were on the verge of publishing papers proving POU filters were dangerous–we will later see how Dr. Love actively encouraged that belief.

The FACHEP team of quintessential faculty crybullies were well on their way, to weaving conspiracy stories involving all of the relief agencies, Wells, Edwards, and even EPA Whistleblower Miguel del Toral. This would reach a public crescendo at the January 11, 2017 Flint Town Hall Meeting, and also lead to the Edwards defamation case (now dismissed) and the ongoing Wells felony criminal felony trial.

What Wonders Love Hath Wrought

My meaning is to work what wonders love hath wrought,
Wherewith I muse why men of wit have love so dearly bought;
For love is worse than hate, and eke more harm hath done:
Record I take of those that rede of Paris, Priam’s son.
It seemed the God of sleep had mazed so much his wits
When he refused wit for love, which cometh but by fits;
But why accuse I him, whom earth hath covered long?
There be of his posterity alive, I do him wrong.
Whom I might well condemn to be a cruel judge
Unto myself, who hath the crime in others that I grudge.

Edward de Vere 1576

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: On June 2, 2018, 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: On June 30, 2018, 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). Upset at the escalating attacks, Edwards filed his defamation case 4 days later.

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 all over the country 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