A 'Messed Up' Lead Poisoning Program and Local Officials' Fear the Public Would Find Out

September 13, 2018 AT 9:35 AM

By Mary Spicuzza and Daniel Bice

Four months before widespread problems with the city's lead poisoning prevention program burst into the open, then-Health Commissioner Bevan Baker was warned by a staffer that they would face serious consequences if the public learned just how deep the troubles ran.

Records obtained by the Journal Sentinel reveal a flurry of text messages between Baker and Tiffany Barta, the director of nursing, on Sept. 27, 2017, after the city health agency inadvertently sent a lead-poisoned child from the hospital back to a home full of lead hazards. The mistake was not made public.

"I'm only doing this for you," Barta texted, "because if this gets out, that the lead program is this messed up! We will be held to the grindstone!

"I will work very hard; weekends, nights (you can relate), no compensation, etc. I could say no, but I don't want you to answer to the crap they will serve you across the street," concluded Barta, who was put in charge of the lead poisoning prevention program earlier this year.

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