Text Messages Show Health Officials Knew Lead Problems

Milwaukee – Text messages show former Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker was warned about the need for secrecy in the city’s lead program.

Major mistakes had been made and Baker was told there would be serious consequences if the public found out.

Published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and CBS 58 the text messages between the commissioner and M-H-D nursing director Tiffany Barta last September revealed they knew the agency had accidentally sent a lead-poisoned child from the hospital back to a home filled with lead hazards.  The information didn’t go public for four months.

CBS 58 obtained hundreds of texts through an open records request.

The texts date back to August 2017. Baker and Barta talk about what a mess the lead program is and how bad it will be for the department if gets out.

On August 16, 2017 Barta texts Baker, “As an FYI, I will be submitting to you a plan for the restoration of the lead program, to also include lead and pregnancy.” She continues, “Additionally, I will provide a plan that Tasha [another health department employee] and I have worked on that will put MHD in a good light.  This plan can be used to deflect away from all of the internal/external nonsense…”

In January, Baker abruptly resigned his job as news broke that his department failed to provide services to families of thousands of children who had tested positive for lead — or at least document those efforts. Troubles also emerged with a city program aimed at reducing lead hazards, mainly paint, in homes.

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