Washington, DC — Loudoun County, one of the fastest growing and most affluent counties in the U.S., has fired its top environmental staff person for sending a report about a breakdown in the area’s “Green Infrastructure” to County Supervisors without prior approval, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The challenge to his removal will involve a precedent-setting legal fight about the ability of county employees to communicate with elected officials.
This February, Bruce McGranahan, the county Environmental Program Coordinator, began distributing a report about the state of the county’s environment to members of the Board of Supervisors. Once word of McGranahan’s report reached his superiors at County Administration, he was immediately suspended. The reasons for terminating him were laid out in a letter dated February 20, 2008 – failure to follow the county “Style Manual,” “improper use of authority” and behaving unethically. McGranahan was then fired on March 7th. Today, he files his first legal challenge against the action.
McGranahan’s report, entitled “Loudoun County’s Environment: Challenges and Opportunities, 2008-2012,” describes strains on county natural and cultural resources from record levels of growth, including –
- Rates of land consumption that are outpacing population growth;
- Increases in vehicle use canceling the air pollution benefits of cleaner fuels; and
- Growing loss of aquatic life due to rising water pollution levels.
The report lays out nine steps that the county should consider taking during the next four years.
“I felt that I was simply doing my job of providing an honest assessment of environmental concerns in the County,” said McGranahan. “My career is secondary to the critical challenges facing my community.”
McGranahan now begins a formal grievance process that, unless the removal is reversed, will culminate in a lawsuit against the county. In addition to questioning whether the Style Manual or other rules actually prohibited what he did, his legal brief invokes state statutory and constitutional free speech guarantees.
“In its overreaction to prevent unapproved candor from reaching the Supervisors, the Loudoun County Administration crossed legal lines protecting the right of employees to express opinions to elected officials on matters of public concern,” stated PEER Staff Attorney Adam Draper, who is representing McGranahan, referring to a 2006 Virginia statute that specifically safeguards communications like McGranahan’s. “Candor in public service should not be a firing offense.”
Read the executive summary of the report that got Bruce McGranahan fired
(contact PEER for full document)