For Immediate Release
Lawsuits Mount Against Florida Eco-Inspector General
Whistleblowers Sue Agency and Individual Officials for 'Political Hatchet Jobs'
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The office that is supposed to serve as watchdog over the Florida
Department of Environmental Protection suffers from distemper, as
evidenced by lawsuits filed against it this year. The latest suit,
filed yesterday, details how the DEP Inspector General railroaded a
long-time law enforcement supervisor in retaliation for blowing the
whistle, according to pleadings posted today by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Yesterday's suit on behalf of David King, a former Captain in the
DEP Division of Law Enforcement, describes how King had previously
complained about an improper reporting of a fictitious crime by senior
administration officials, as well as the attempt by senior management
to hire an individual whose qualifications were suspect, but who was
friends with one of King's superiors. King was terminated after he
refused to condone the actions of his superiors. The Inspector
General's Office participated in the efforts to fire him. King appealed
that decision to the Public Employee Relations Commission where he won
and was ordered reinstated. Then, after being ordered to reinstate
King, the DEP, through the Inspector General's Office, began a new
investigation against King in yet another effort to oust him.
King's suit parallels a suit filed by PEER in January on behalf of
Thomas White, the senior chemist in the DEP Port St. Lucie laboratory
until he was terminated on the basis of an allegedly bogus Inspector
General investigation. White had reported off-the-chart water pollution
levels in South Florida as well as integrity problems that could
disqualify the state for federal grants subsidizing its clean water
"In Florida's DEP, the Inspector General is used to perform
political hatchet jobs on whistleblowers while turning a blind eye to
the most egregious agency malfeasance," stated Florida PEER Director
Jerry Phillips, a former DEP enforcement attorney. "Three years ago we
brought this issue to the public's attention when it was learned that
the DEP used political contributions in considering whether or not to
hire, fire, or promote applicants. In that case, the OIG failed to
conduct any meaningful investigation into the agency's misconduct,
essentially rubber-stamping it."
The King suit brought by Danielle Joyner-Kelley, a former Assistant
State Attorney, claims First Amendment and whistleblower law violations
as well as a variety of other wrongdoing, including civil conspiracy.
Significantly, these personal damage suits are being brought not only
against DEP and the Office of Inspector General but also against Pinky
Hall and her top deputies in their personal capacities. The PEER suit
for White has already survived dismissal motions and is proceeding to
"These lawsuits show that something is rotten in the Inspector
General's Office," Phillips added. "Under its long-time leader Pinky
Hall, the Inspector General's Office combines the worst aspects of the
KGB and the Keystone Kops."