Did Gov. Rick Scott really order staff to keep terms such as “climate change” and “global warming” out of official reports and speeches?
Scott adamantly denies it. But the pressure continued Friday in Tallahassee, when Florida State University students, climate activists and representatives of a whistle-blower group for environmental employees covered their mouths with tape marked “climate change.”
Participants also hand-delivered a public records request for Scott’s office to disclose all correspondence between Scott and the Department of Environmental Protection. They also submitted a petition they said was signed by more than 38,000 people and which calls on the DEP Inspector General to investigate whether the ban really exists.
The group said it was acting in the spirit of this week’s Sunshine Week, a national effort by the media, watchdog groups and individuals to improve government transparency.
Earlier this week, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a complaint asking the DEP Inspector General to investigate the agency’s reprimand of Barton Bibler, a land management plan coordinator for DEP’s Division of State Lands.
Bibler attended a Florida Coastal Managers Forum on Feb. 27 at which climate change, sea-level rise and the Keystone XL Pipeline were discussed. At the meeting, he said he was concerned that the pipeline would jeopardize the stability of the earth’s climate, and acknowledged it was his opinion, not his department’s official position, when a conference moderator questioned him about it.
The PEER complaint says that after he included the phrase “climate change” in his official notes of the meeting, he “was directed to remove any hot button issues, especially explicit references to climate change, and then was given a letter of reprimand for supposedly misrepresenting that the ‘official meeting agenda included climate change.’” PEER says the word “Agenda” was accidentally left at the top of his notes.
Bibler got the letter of reprimand on March 9 in which he was ordered to take two days leave and then was told not to return until he had medical clearance of his fitness for duty.
In the reprimand letter, provided by PEER, Marianne Gengenbach, chief of environmental services, said Bibler “engaged in personal political advocacy related to the Keystone XL Pipeline” and that he provided his supervisors a summary of the meeting suggesting climate change was on the agenda when it wasn’t.
Asked about the reprimand and PEER’s complaint, DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said Thursday in an e-mail:
“As stated in Mr. Bibler’s written reprimand, he was reprimanded for violating three DEP standards of conduct, including poor performance, insubordination and conduct unbecoming a public employee.
On March 2, Mr. Bibler was asked by his manager to attend the Coastal Managers Forum—an inter-agency meeting, as a representative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. At that meeting, he engaged in personal political advocacy related to the Keystone XL pipeline — an issue that was not on the meeting agenda nor related to his job duties.
“While we respect all our employees’ personal beliefs, we expect them to perform their duties in an impartial and appropriate manner and to stay focused and engaged on job-related activities during work hours.
“We also expect all employees to perform their duties—as assigned by their supervisor—in a competent and adequate manner.
“After the meeting, Mr. Bibler was reprimanded for failure to fulfill his duties as assigned in an appropriate and respectful way. After multiple requests by his supervisor, Mr. Bibler failed to provide an accurate summary of the meeting, and instead responded in a disrespectful and argumentative fashion by simply providing an attachment with the “Keystone XL Pipeline” with a red circle and a cross through it.”
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, quoting former employees and contractors, originally reported Scott had ordered the phrases banned. The Associated Press also has reported that Florida members of the group Forecast the Facts filed a complaint asking the DEP inspector general to get to the bottom of whether Scott did issue his edict.
Original article here.