Washington, DC — State anti-pollution enforcement agents fear retaliation for raising problems and distrust their agency leadership, according to results of an all-employee climate survey within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Agency released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The relative disquiet among the DEP Law Enforcement Division parallels a steady decline in pollution enforcement by the agency during the past five years documented in an analysis of agency records compiled by PEER.
The 2005 DEP “Employee Climate Survey” was conducted by the agency’s Office of Inspector General and completed in late October. Approximately 90% (3,812) of the 4,253 surveyed employees participated. While this agency-sponsored polling registered high overall levels of satisfaction, results for the Division of Law Enforcement were significantly and consistently more negative than agency-wide results:
- Almost half (45%) of enforcement staff say that employees are not “free to speak up and say what they think; and
- More than a third (36%) admits “fear of reprisal” for bringing concerns up their chain-of-command.
The Division of Law Enforcement, which includes the Bureau of Environmental Investigations, the Park Patrol, and the Office of Public Education & Training, also reflected high regard for field supervisors but low regard for political appointees in departmental leadership:
- More than half (54%) of the Park Patrol and 40% of the entire Law Enforcement Division feel that the DEP “Executive Leadership Team” does not provide “effective leadership;” and
- Half of enforcement staff does not see clear communication from management, with high numbers reporting “conflicting instruction from different levels of management.” Nearly a third (31%) believes that management practices are not “conducive to organizational success.”
“These survey results point to politics as the biggest pollution threat facing our state,” said Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, noting that a major topic of employee essays about how to improve agency performance was the intrusion of politics into decision-making. “Looking at departmental statistics, one could fairly describe Florida’s pollution enforcement posture as ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’”
Apart from law enforcement staff, the Employee Climate Survey was also notable for the many pockets of dissatisfaction honeycombed throughout the DEP, particularly in the six District offices. There are pockets in the District offices that showed levels of distrust and dissatisfaction even greater than those in the Division of Law Enforcement. “This survey indicates that the farther away from Tallahassee the greater the problems,” added Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney who obtained the full survey results under the state’s Sunshine Act.