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Sierra Club Calls on Governor Kasich for Transparency Around Recent Ohio EPA Resignations
January 10th, 2014
Another senior official has resigned from the Ohio EPA – the second major resignation in four months. Read Ohio Sierra Club Chapter Chair Robert Shields’ letter to the governor explaining that the public deserves answers.
January 10, 2014
Dear Gov. Kasich,
I am concerned about the recent resignations by senior officials in the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. This week marks the second known senior official resignation at this agency in recent months. In both cases, that of Director Scott Nally this week and Water Division Chief George Elmaraghy four months ago, there have not been any clear explanations concerning their reasons thus leaving secrecy surrounding both of their departures. Such a lack of transparency in this agency is unacceptable. The people of Ohio have a right to know what role your office has played in the development of these resignations.
This week Director Scott Nally resigned abruptly without explanation, and you quickly appointed your long-time energy advisor Craig Butler to be his interim replacement. It is highly unusual for an agency director to announce resignation and leave the office on the same day. This comes only four months after the effective resignation of Water Division Chief George Elmaraghy, five months after it was announced and covered nationally through various media outlets, raising significant concerns regarding your governance on environmental protection issues in this state. Other concerns have also been raised regarding reassignment and retirement of other staff members in this same agency.
In an internal email Elmaraghy distributed to Ohio EPA staff, as reported in Ohio media outlets in the absence of any clarity from your office, it was asserted that you had forced him to resign after your administration put “considerable pressure” on the division to accommodate coal industry demands, such as issuing permits that not only violate state and federal laws, but also harm Ohio’s streams and wetlands – affecting the well-being of Ohioans economically and physically. Indeed, these assertions raise serious questions regarding your office’s involvement in these agency changes.
The state of Ohio and its agencies cannot be considered private businesses to be managed through independent, veiled decisions. They are public entities. As the senior elected official of Ohio, you need to set the example for all state employees for transparency in any action affecting the people of Ohio. Indeed, sir – you have this obligation to all of us whom you serve as governor, yet you have not adequately explained these significant staffing changes, leaving many questions unanswered.
We are writing you to request your leadership not by your actions behind closed doors, but by speaking to Ohioans openly and honestly about the activities surrounding these recent events. More specifically, we seek an answer to this simple question: What role has your office played in the development of the recent significant staffing changes at Ohio EPA, and what is the justification for those actions?
I look forward to your answers.
Robert F. Shields
Chair, Sierra Club Ohio Chapter
LCDR, USCG (ret)
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