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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

DEP's handling of controversial permit now subject of state investigation



State officials are now investigating the way top Department of Environmental Protection officials have handled a controversial permit, according to newly released documents.

The investigation into what the state's deputy chief inspector general called "possible improprieties" was sparked by a complaint from the state's top wetlands expert.

That expert, Connie Bersok, was suspended last month after she refused to approve the permit for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank. She was also put under investigation.

DEP officials have repeatedly said Bersok was not put on paid leave and investigated for three weeks because of her refusal. Newly released documents show it was because her bosses feared she was telling outsiders about her refusal.

"Who, if anybody, did you talk to about Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank?" DEP Capt. Gary Wiser asked as his first question during a 34-minute interrogation of Bersok.

Wiser asked if she had talked to environmental activists or reporters, and explained, "Some of the suspicion was that you gave the media information."

Bersok testified she did not. She has declined to speak to the Times.

Story here.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 14, 2012 9:32pm]


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