Washington, DC — The investigation into campaign contributions affecting promotions and enforcement efforts within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been formally referred to the Bay County State Attorney, according to correspondence received by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In a letter sent today, PEER is asking the Bay County State Attorney to convene a publicly empanelled grand jury in order to probe—
- DEP’s use of campaign contributions made by its own employees as a factor in deciding whether to hire, fire or promote the employee. In addition, PEER is also asking for a review of the DEP practice of requiring applicants for promotion to “interview” with members of industry prior to the applicant being given the position sought;
- The extent to which campaign contributions illegally influenced DEP decisions to not pursue anti-pollution enforcement. PEER has uncovered groundwater, asbestos and hazardous waste violations at the Big Wheel landfill in Bay County that were dropped by DEP in the same time frame that that significant campaign contributions were made; and
- The use of illegal immigrant crews to handle, transport and bury hazardous wastes improperly and in a manner unsafe to the workers.
“Something is rotten in the State of Florida but it smells the rankest in Bay County,” stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former enforcement attorney for Florida DEP. “Campaign contributions have no place in pollution enforcement but in DEP the two appear inseparable.”
Steve Meadows, the Bay County State Attorney, campaigned for office on a promise to make greater use of grand juries composed of citizens chosen from an open or non-secret selection process.