Brad Wurfel, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson, tendered his resignation Tuesday following news that DEQ director Dan Wyant was resigning.
"I have greatly appreciated my time as Communications Director at the DEQ, but I am looking forward to pursuing new opportunities in the new year. I tendered my resignation today as well," Wurfel wrote in an email to close contacts Tuesday night.
The two resignations comes on the heels of a Snyder-appointed Flint Water Advisory Task Force's findings that DEQ was "primarily responsible for failing to ensure safe drinking water in Flint.” The task force noted that DEQ's "substance and tone" of press releases and communication on the water crisis were one of the three failings in the Flint fiasco.
"Throughout 2015, as the public raised concerns and as independent studies and testing were conducted and brought to the attention of MDEQ, the agency's response was often one of aggressive dismissal, belittlement, and attempts to discredit these efforts and the individuals involved," the task force's letter noted. "We find both the tone and substance of many MDEQ public statements to be completely unacceptable."
Wurfel and his communication team ruffled feathers in October — following Snyder and the department's final acknowledgement of the damage that had been done in Flint — when he released a branding proposal request for the department. The request offered a company or individual $100,000 to help DEQ rebrand itself following Wyant's acknowledgement that for 17 months DEQ was using the wrong federal requirements to assess Flint's water.
While the marketing request was eventually shelved — after it made the rounds in the daily news cycle — the fact that this is where the department's head was at was somewhat chilling.
While Wurfel and Wyant's departures may feel like a move towards accountability. Not all feel the blame is hitting its true target. Snyder's task force found DEQ "primarily responsible" for the issues in Flint, however, it's hard to imagine Snyder was completely out of the loop for all this — especially when we considering the fact that Wurfel of MDEQ is married to Snyder's former spokesperson Sara Wurfel. Some of you may know her — and her knowledge of Flint's water crisis — from the ACLU of Michigan's October video
"Circle of Lies" in which she told journalists Curt Guyette and Kate Levy that "the Detroit Water and Sewer Department at the time back last spring said 'Hey, we're going to cut you off.'"
As we now know, Detroit never said this. In fact in February 2014 it offered Flint the opportunity to continue purchasing water from DWSD.
It's fun to imagine what the Wurfel family spoke about over dinner