Millinocket, MAINE--An enforcement specialist with the Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) stepped down Monday, charging that the agency managers consistently impede investigations and sidestep environmental laws, according to his resignation letter released today by Maine Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Maine PEER).
In a May 26th letter to LURC Director Catherine Carroll, Environmental Specialist David Tardiff describes how the agency, which is tasked with enforcing planning and zoning laws in Maine's unorganized territories, has been stifled from fulfilling its mission. According to the letter, LURC managers
Refuse to take enforcement action against the largest violators;
Ignore agency rules by allowing after-the-fact permits on projects that "would not be approved before the fact"; and
Encourage staff "to falsify findings of fact in order to just get a permit issued."
The letter also notes that staff and budget cutbacks will only further cripple LURC's enforcement capabilities. Last week, Maine PEER reported that a recent $10,000 settlement against repeat offender Clayton Lake Woodlands is likely to be the last of its kind, as 20 percent reductions in staffing and a growing backlog of cases make future multi-year investigations nearly impossible. At the same time, the agency has agreed to spend nearly $40,000 on a new Internet mapping site, an expenditure that critics argue is a low priority.
Currently assigned to the East Millinocket field office, Tardiff is a 15-year veteran of state service, with the last seven years at LURC and the remainder with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. His resignation will take effect on June 6. In his resignation letter, Tardiff notes that he "simply wanted to do the best job I could and with integrity. However, I believe this has not been possible for quite some time and the continuing situation makes it impossible for me to remain as a public servant on the Commission staff."
"This resignation is just the latest example that LURC is an agency in deep denial," commented Maine PEER Director Tim Caverly. "LURC appears at war with itself, with enforcement staff facing more resistance from their own managers than from violators."
In 2001, Caverly circulated an agency-wide employee survey in which 86 percent of respondents said that the agency did not have the resources to "properly enforce the law." More than half (57 percent) also felt that the agency was not proactive in preventing violations before they occur.