To the Editor:
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Agency issued the following statement after it trimmed 58 FDEP jobs, which spurred criticism form many quarters:
CLAIM: A Miami Herald editorial states, "FDEP leaders decimated the ranks of longtime, experienced-and apolitical-employees, 58 in all."
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has 3,024 full-time employees, plus another 830 part-time employees, statewide who are dedicated to enforcing federal and state rules, studying the environment and seeking to leave Florida better tomorrow than it is today. Recent reductions amount to 1.5 percent of the work force. To characterize this percentage of employees as a decimation is factually inaccurate.
CLAIM: "This is the sad, but not surprising, culmination of the slow erosion of the agency's regulatory imperative to ensure that growth and development did not come at the expense of unreplenishable natural resources."
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: The Department's recent reorganizations were conducted after months-long assessments of procedures and processes as well as staffing and workload levels. By reorganizing districts and divisions, leadership eliminated levels of bureaucracy in order to improve communication, created a stronger employee-to-supervisor ratio and combined or elevated similar functions to become more efficient and consistent, which will benefit the environment and agency.
These reductions have done nothing to erode the agency's role in regulating industry and protecting the environment.
CLAIM: "The purge got rid of regulators who had the backbone to say 'No' to politically connected developers and engineers. With them went decades of experience and commitment to FDEP's mission, basing their decisions in science and research."
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: This seeks to discredit the remaining thousands of employees with decades of experience and commitment to the Department's mission of protecting human and environmental health. Employees are developing restoration roadmaps for our springs and impaired waterbodies, dedicating hours to helping businesses and residents remain or come into compliance in order to avoid environmental harm and funding hundreds of millions of dollars to local drinking water, wastewater and stormwater facilities and waste-cleanup projects every year.
CLAIM: Now, the department is being populated by administrators who come directly from the industries that regularly seek the DEP's favor. It's telling, disturbingly so, that most of the employees dismissed were in the compliance and enforcement divisions.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: The Department strives to employ the most qualified staff members and seeks a diverse group of individuals to lead. Not only have private-sector employees been hired but internal employees have been promoted within the Department.