DEP Staffer Suspended Over Defending Wetlands; New Group In Florida Stands Up For Ethics and Against Corruption

05/29/12 Robert Lorei
Radioactivity: Live Call-In (Tuesday) | Listen to this entire show:

Good morning, welcome to Radioactivity. I’m Rob Lorei. Coming up today we’ll hear about the case of a state environmental worker- who was suspended for trying to protect wetlands… and we’ll talk about ethics in Florida government. The state recently received a low grade on a corruption risk scorecard….

But first four listener comments. One about our program last Friday on which we talked about the purge of Florida voter rolls. And two comments about yesterday’s interview with three Vietnam Veterans—all of whom are members of the group Florida Veterans for Common Sense…plus a comment about the anti-war veterans on yesterday's Democracy Now Here’s what four listeners had to say….

Tape

Florida's top state wetlands expert has been suspended after she refused to issue a permit on a controversial project — one that she said her boss was willing to bend the rules to approve. Our next guest- Craig Pittman from the St. Tampa Bay Times broke the story. He joins us now….

story here

In Florida’s House of Representatives there is a ban on members voting on issues that will benefit her/him financially. But, there's no such ban for Florida's state senators.

State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, introduced Senate Bill 552 this year, which would prevent senators from proposing, participating in or voting on bills that would provide special, private benefits for themselves, their families or their employers.

But, the bill did not pass during the legislative session. Another Senate ethics bill died in committee. Under Senate Bill 1560 sponsored by John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, future lawmakers would have been banned from holding jobs or contracting with state colleges and universities.

We’re joined now by Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida – a non-partisan group which has been looking into corruption and ethics problems here in Florida.

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Comments

Connie Bersok - DEP wetland Expert

Here is a copy of the letter that I sent to the Sec. and Dep. Sec. and Gov. Scott concerning the suspension of the DEP wetland scientist. I am writing in response to the news article that I recently read concerning the suspension of Ms. Connie Bersok from her position with the FDEP. I am concerned with the information provided in the article which highlights the Department's undermining of the Mitigation Banking rules. But I am also very concerned with the suspension of Ms. Bersok and others with the SJWMD that have stood up for the consistent and fair application of the science that is the basis for mitigation banking. I have worked in the environmental field for over 20 years, first in the phosphate industry and then as a consultant. Through those years I have worked directly with Ms. Bersok on numerous occasions. I can tell you, from the applicants point of view, Ms. Bersok has always conducted herself in a professional manner and has applied the rules and regulations set forth by the Department in a fair and consistent manner. Having worked with Ms. Bersok in the past, and knowing only the facts as put forth in the St. Petersburg Times 05/28/12 article, I can say with some certainty that if she objected to the agency action and could not recommend approval of the permit application, it was with good reason, applying good science, and with a thorough understanding of the rules and the application thereof. I would assume that your position as Deputy Secretary would be to rely on and support the opinions and direction of your expert scientists and not to pander to the desires of corporate developers and assist them in undermining the responsibility FDEP has to protect and manage the wetland resources of Florida. I believe you, Mr. Littlejohn, need to reflect on your role within the Department and your commitment to managing the resources - human and environmental - that are under your control. I hope the investigation and review of Ms. Bersok's role in this matter yields the truth; that she is a knowledgeable, fair, loyal, and committed employee of FDEP who has applied the science of her field in a manner that reflects both the spirit and intent of the regulations set forth by the state of Florida.