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 1-5
|Dr. Shawn McElmurry
|WSU – Civil Engineering
|FACHEP’s Founder, Witness in Felony Trials
|Dr. Marcus Zervos
|WSU – Infectious Disease
|FACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
|Dr. Paul Kilgore
|WSU – Pharmacy
|FACHEP co-PI, Witness in Felony Trials
|Dr. Nancy Love
|UM – Civil Engineering
|Dr. McElmurry’s Enabler/Defender; Water Filter Research, Engineering Ethics Pontificator
|Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou
|Parents for Non-Toxic Alternatives
|Friend of FACHEP, Adversary of Flintwaterstudy
|Dr. Eden Wells
|MI Chief Medical Officer
|Accused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
|Mr. Nick Lyon
|MI Health Chief
|Accused of obstructing FACHEP/justice
|VT – Civil Engineering
|Flintwaterstudy leader – Author of this blog Series; Potable Water Legionella, Lead, Ethics Expertise
|Dr. Amy Pruden
|VT – Civil Engineering
|VT Flint research co-PI; Potable Water Legionella and Microbiology Expertise
|Dr. Kasey Faust
|UT – Civil Engineering
|PhD work in Flint 2013-2015 on Shrinking Cities; Dr. McElmurry was on her PhD Committee
|Dr. Sue Masten
|MSU – Civil Engineering
|FACHEP Member and Whistleblower; Drinking Water Treatment Expertise
PART 6: UNFAIR COMPETITION: WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY AND VEGANS DO IT BETTER
Wayne State University (WSU) faculty lead FACHEP and play multiple roles in the felony criminal cases against Dr. Wells and Mr. Lyon. Star witnesses Drs. McElmurry, Kilgore and Zervos hail from WSU. Mr. Noah Hall (WSU) served as a special assistant attorney general on the cases and also frequently opines to the media. Dr. Larry Reynolds (WSU alumnus) and Mr. Hollins (former WSU Vice President) initiated the sole source funding to FACHEP and testified in the court cases. All of this weighed on our mind as we pondered WSU’s repeated obfuscations under Michigan FOIA law, and examine yet another WSU connection in the Wells and Lyon trials herein.
Edwards vs. Wayne State.
Our FOIA case against WSU grinds forward thanks to great work by Attorney Derk Wilcox and others (MACKINAC CENTER LEGAL FOUNDATION), despite stubborn resistance to laws designed to ensure access to public documents and communications. We provide one simple example of how absurd the entire experience has been in the paragraphs that follow. Our experience also reveals the lengths to which WSU will go to protect its “Wayne Cares for Flint” brand, and the pipeline through which millions and millions in grant funding continue to flow due to Dr. McElmurry’s claim of “unique qualifications” and work in Flint 2010-2015.
Consider Dr. Edwards third and very straightforward WSU FOIA request filed March 3, 2018. We knew that on October 27, 2017, McElmurry gave a public presentation entitled “The Challenge of Mitigating Risk Associated With Aging Drinking Water Infrastructure in Shrinking Cities” at Michigan State University. Edwards requested copies of the PowerPoint slides in order to follow-up on serious concerns that McElmurry was taking ideas from others without proper attribution. Our specific concern was Dr. Kasey Faust’s dissertation data and her work on shrinking cities– materials McElmurry had access to while serving as an external member of her PhD committee.
Due to blatant stone-walling on the part of WSU, we finally had no choice but to file a lawsuit to force WSU to follow Michigan FOIA law. They eventually provided most slides, but are still fighting to withhold four slides to protect Dr. McElmurry’s “intellectual property” from our “unfair competition.” You read that correctly, WSU is afraid we might steal McElmurry’s intellectual property.
We appealed that decision on the basis that he had already publicly presented the slides. The Wayne State response to the appeal came November 21, 2018 as follows:
The contents of the power point presentation…were not made completely available to the audience. Dr. McElmurry took steps to protect and preserve the confidentiality of the redacted materials (slides 22, 23, 25 and 33) from unfair competition and copyright infringement. The audience was not allowed to make photographic copies of any of the slides and none of the slides remained on screen long enough for anyone to be able to retain the information presented in slides 22, 23, 25 and 33… Furthermore, the presentation was not made in a forum that was open to anyone in the academic community. This was an invitation only, educational symposium…
This is fascinating on so many levels we scarcely know where to begin. For starters, it seems WSU is inventing an academic equivalent of the “five-second rule” applied to determine whether it is okay to eat food dropped on the floor. Exactly how many seconds did McElmurry allow the slides to remain on the screen, to be sure that the information was not retained by the audience? And isn’t taking steps “to protect and preserve…confidentiality” and prevent an audience from retaining information, contrary to the intent of a public presentation in the first place?
And if this is not already beyond ludicrous, McElmurry himself took pictures of other presenters’ slides at the same forum! He even proudly emailed one photo to Dr. Masten, in which the slide contents can be easily read (below). Perhaps McElmurry will now face severe WSU disciplinary action for retaining information given at a public presentation.
Other possible explanations
While we remain open to the idea that McElmurry has created intellectual property that must be shielded from our “unfair competition,” we have developed a certain amount of cynicism. We cannot help but ask, “What could WSU really be hiding?”
With this very question in mind, Dr. Sue Masten (MSU) did some searching. Lo and behold, she found an earlier McElmurry PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Flint Water Crisis: An Engineering Perspective,” that was apparently given at Iowa State University in 2016. Masten requested Dr. McElmurry’s PowerPoint presentation materials by email on February 20, 2016. When he forwarded the file to her, McElmurry confessed:
No problem! After all, as you will see, more than half of this presentation is YOURS!
That was a truthful statement. Literally, more than half the slides in McElmurry’s presentation, were taken from a prior presentation Dr. Masten had previously created. There is no evidence anywhere in the presentation, that McElmurry gave Dr. Masten any attribution for use of her slides. Shamefully, the PowerPoint presentation that we reviewed still had Dr. Masten’s speaking notes embedded within it.
But taking Dr. Masten’s slides was just the start. It also turns out that that some of the figures appearing in McElmurry’s powerpoint presentation (i.e., the slides he did NOT take from Dr. Masten) were lifted from Dr. Faust’s dissertation work (example below).
Notice that McElmurry may have re-colored Dr. Faust’s figure and added the following improper attribution to the bottom of his slide [Faust, et al. (2015)], which follows a citation on a prior slide:
Faust, K.M., Abraham, D.D., McElmurry, S.P. (2015) Sustainability of Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in Shrinking Cities. Public Works Management & Policy, 1-29. DOI: 10.1177/1087724X15606737
In other words, after McElmurry took a figure from Dr. Faust’s work, he added a citation to a paper on which he was generously included as the third (i.e., least contributing) co-author. In so doing he created an illusion that he had intellectual co-ownership of her “shrinking city” work. However, the reality is that the paper he cited, literally has nothing to do with the above figure at all. This is the exact same unethical sleight-of-hand trick McElmurry used to claim intellectual ownership of Dr. Faust’s work in his 2015 NIH proposal.
McElmurry has repeatedly abused his third authorship position on Dr. Faust’s peer reviewed journal paper to lay claim to Dr. Faust’s entire dissertation, academic identity and work “in Flint” whenever it suits him. In retrospect, we wonder if he realized, the very instant he was informed Faust’s paper was published with his name on it October 1, 2015, that this could be transformed into such a golden ticket. Recall that he immediately wrote Dr. Faust: “Wonderful! This is amazing timing. I hope you two have been keeping up on the disaster that has been unfolding in Flint with their drinking water supply….. We should talk tomorrow. I’ll try calling you.”
Following their phone conversation, Dr. Faust handed over to McElmurry her dissertation hydraulic model on the false pretense she would be included on a forthcoming “ <NIH> emergency proposal..<and> NSF and EPA grants.” After he received the models by email, McElmurry never included Faust on future grants, but simply puts “Faust, K.M., Abraham, D.D., McElmurry, S.P. (2015) or Faust et al. (2015)” to falsely take credit for her work. The extent to which he has used this trick again and again, without remorse, apology, or consequence, is truly sickening.
But even that was not the end to McElmurry’s intellectual property theft in the presentation we reviewed. We also discovered slides and photos in the body of his work that were lifted from Flintwaterstudy.org and passed off as his own. Consider the remarkable similarity between this slide in McElmurry’s presentation and our Flintwaterstudy graph from October 2015. There is no attribution whatsoever.
To be fair, McElmurry did personalize our Figure for his presentation, by removing the black frame that appears on our version, akin to how he changed some colors on the EXCEL pie charts in Dr. Faust’s dissertation figure. But only in McElmurry’s world does removing a frame or recoloring a graph create intellectual ownership.
Which brings us back to the 4 slides that WSU is fighting to withhold. In the presentation viewed above, we describe how he took ideas without proper attribution from three different individuals. It seems highly unlikely he could outdo that performance with just the four slides withheld by WSU (i.e., could the 4 withheld slides be appropriated from 4 different people?).
That said, it would be hypocritical, to say the least, if it turns out that WSU was asserting an “intellectual property” or “unfair competition” exemption for slides that were actually the work of others (e.g., Dr. Faust or Dr. Masten). At this point, after the trauma of reviewing the Iowa State PowerPoint, we also confess to having a deep desire to see even one example of true intellectual property created by McElmurry. We have thus committed ourselves to pressing on with the fight to see all four slides.
MACKINAC CENTER LEGAL FOUNDATION RESPONSE TO WSU
Just last week, Mackinac submitted the following absurd interrogatories to WSU, in response to their prior absurd answers about their rationale to withhold the slides:
You have stated that this presentation was made at an “invitation only, educational symposium.” Please provide a list of invitees. Please provide the names and identifying information for all security personnel who controlled entrance to this event…<and> who controlled and/or monitored attendees to ensure that they did not photograph or otherwise record the presentation.
You have stated that “none of the slides remained on screen long enough for anyone to be able to retain the information presented in slides 22, 23, 25 and 33.” Please state with specificity how long these slides remained on screen. In regards to the previous question, please state how it was determined what length of time was sufficient for the audience to see the slides, yet not “retain the information.”
WSU VEGAN SEX AUTHOR AND EXPERT WITNESS FOR PROSECUTION
We now shift gears, to the important matter of just who was selected for compensated expert witness work for the special prosecutor in the Lyon and Wells case. A critical and somewhat controversial expert is cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn (Wayne State University). In the pre-trial hearings, Dr. Kahn provided testimony for the prosecution on the role of Legionnaires’ Disease in death of a patient. The defense in Lyon argued Dr. Kahn is unqualified and should be tossed from the case “because he does not have training in infectious disease, pulmonology or Legionnaires,” whereas the prosecution begged to differ.
We dove deep and determined that Dr. Kahn claims a wide range of expertise, and is also something of him an entrepreneur. Among his featured intellectual contributions, is co-authorship of the book “Vegan Sex: Vegans Do it Better– Dump your meds and jump in bed.” Dr. Kahn’s youtube video pitching the book has now been viewed slightly more than 500 times. The 16 reviews on the book are clearly bi-modal, with roughly 2/3 respondents giving it 5 stars and 1/3 giving it a one star. The reviews are worth a read if you are looking for a little free entertainment. We also found a WSU youtube video that has been viewed 100 times, in which Dr. Kahn jokes that he is also an “expert in neurobiology because I watched Animal House 100 times (listen @ 2 minutes and 45 seconds).”
We obtained FOIA documents that indicate Dr. Kahn has indeed been financially compensated for providing his expertise in the Lyon and Wells pre-trials. While he bills a lower rate of $500/hour for normal work on cases, for any court appearance he charges a flat fee of $7,500. So for example, on February 16nd, 2018, when he testified less than 1 hour, he billed $7500 because that was a “court” day. In total, Dr. Kahn has received $100,000 from Michigan taxpayers to date for his pretrial work and testimony. We sincerely hope that the question of his expertise be further investigated and resolved, before the State of Michigan starts to spend really serious money during the full trial.
WAYNE CARES FOR FLINT
Reviewing Dr. Kahn’s billing records prompted us to start making a list of all the ways we are aware of that WSU and its employees could receive taxpayer compensation related to the Flint Water Crisis and the criminal cases. We do not have a problem with any of this, mind you, provided that all of the work originated from truthful statements and fair competition.
The list currently includes:
- Tens of millions in government research grants, snowballing directly or indirectly, from McElmurry’s claims of work “in Flint” 2010-2015 and unique expertise.
- WSU estimate that taxpayers would have to provide $280,000 to pay 1.4 years of Dr. McElmurry’s salary at $96.93/hour, to produce FOIA documents requested by Mr. Lyon’s defense. WSU stated: “Due to the highly technical nature of your requests, Dr. McElmurry is the lowest paid employee of the University who is capable of performing the necessary review…. We realize that the cost and time frame estimates may seem excessive to you. They are not. Rather, they are dictated by requests that are very broad and require painstaking review for responsiveness and exemptions by a fully engaged faculty member.” As a point of comparison, Virginia Tech charges less than $15/hour to review FOIA and faculty are not allowed to engage in the process.
- Dr. Kahn’s compensation for expert witness work (= $100K)
- Mr. Noah Hall’s (WSU) likely compensation for his role as assistant special prosecutor.
It strikes us that there can be a fascinating synergy to all of this. Consider a completely hypothetical example where a faculty member falsifies their work record to land a huge government grant, then proceeds to crybully their way to a felony charge against a government official attempting to manage their incompetence. Those criminal charges, in turn, create new cash flow opportunities: faculty expert witness testimony, faculty employment on the special prosecution team, and faculty employment to produce emails to the defense team. All the while, publicly waving a “We Care for Flint” banner and pontificating about upholding the “engineering code of ethics.”
There is obviously a lot of food for thought here. Perhaps Michigan taxpayers should plan an outing to Dr. Kahn’s (WSU) Greenspace Cafe restaurant, which just so happens to be highly recommended by Mr. Shawn McElmurry (see below), to share a nice dinner and conversation about unfair competition, FACHEP, Vegan Sex, and how much “Wayne Cares for Flint.”
Primary Author: Dr. Marc A. Edwards