Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida DEP Secretary Jon Steverson going to work for firm that just got DEP contract

At the end of January, two things will change about the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

One is that Secretary Jon Steverson will leave his post after two stormy years in charge to take a job with the law firm of Foley & Lardner.

The other is that Steverson's new employers at Foley & Lardner will take over representing Florida in handling the billions of dollars awarded to the state as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

In a contract signed at the end of November, the DEP agreed to pay Foley & Lardner $96,000 a year to represent Florida in meetings of the Restore Council, a coalition of states and federal agencies that oversee the spending of the oil spill settlement money.

The employee at Foley & Lardner who will handle those duties: Steverson's predecessor at the DEP, former secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr., who was hired by the company after he quit the agency in 2014.

The fact that DEP's leader was hired by a company that just received a DEP contract "doesn't pass the smell test," said Ben Wilcox of the watchdog group Integrity Florida. "It's pretty stinky. It's almost like the new job is a thank-you for sending the contract their way."

An agency spokeswoman defended the Foley & Lardner contract by noting that Steverson's new employer would be paid using money from BP's settlement, not from the DEP's own budget.

"No taxpayer dollars will be used for these services," said DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel.

Until now, Florida's representative on the council has been Mimi Drew, who served as DEP secretary for a year under then-Gov. Charlie Crist and was then replaced by Vinyard, Gov. Rick Scott's first DEP secretary. Vinyard stayed three years.

Drew, who does not work for Foley & Lardner, said she is ready to retire and spend time traveling with her husband.

"I've been doing this for almost seven years," she said, "and I want some time off."

Drew had been an employee at DEP for 30 years, dating to when it was known as the Department of Environmental Regulation. Vinyard was a Jacksonville shipyard executive with no prior experience running a government agency when he took over the DEP.

He was chosen by Scott as the ideal person to replace Drew on the Restore Council, Engel said.

"As this position represents Florida on a state and federal council that is working to restore the ecosystem and the economy of the Gulf Coast region, it is important that Florida be represented by someone knowledgeable about the effects of the oil spill on Florida's environment and communities," she said.

Foley & Lardner, an international law firm with four Florida offices, is also one of the firms the state is paying to handle its lawsuit against Georgia over water rights. Florida sued Georgia in 2013, claiming that the state's excessive use of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers was endangering Florida's oyster industry. Foley & Lardner is to be paid $2.6 million.

Scott said Tuesday he has no problem with Steverson taking a job with a company that has a contract with the agency he led.

"We have people who come to work for the state and they work very hard and then they find opportunities," he said. "That's just part of the process. . . . If they have these opportunities, then I'm glad for them."

Steverson, who did not respond to repeated requests from the Tampa Bay Times for an interview during his two years in office, was not available for comment.

His tenure as the head of DEP was marked by controversy. The agency was criticized for not telling the public for three weeks about a sinkhole at Mosaic's Mulberry phosphate plant last year. Steverson's call to allow hunting, timber harvesting and cattle grazing at state parks drew complaints that his plan would ruin a major tourist draw. And his push for new water quality standards that allow a larger amount of cancer-causing chemicals to be dumped into Florida's waterways has been challenged by environmental groups.

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Contact Craig Pittman at [email protected] Follow @craigtimes.

Florida DEP Secretary Jon Steverson going to work for firm that just got DEP contract 01/29/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 30, 2017 12:56am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Deandre Gilmore guilty, but not of murder, jury decides

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The actions of Deandre Gilmore caused the death of his girlfriend's 19-month-old daughter in 2014, but a Hillsborough County jury decided Friday it was manslaughter, not murder.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017 in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing Myla Presley the 19 month-old daughter of his then girlfriend Nayashia Williams while Gilmore was giving her a bath.
  2. Bucs-Bills: Things to watch in Sunday's 1 p.m. game

    Bucs

    FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2017, file photo, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs past Atlanta Falcons' De'Vondre Campbell (59) and Deion Jones (45) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Atlanta. The Bills play against the Buccaneers in Buffalo on Sunday. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) NY182
  3. Koetter: QB Jameis Winston will start Sunday vs. Bills

    Bucs

    After five days of uncertainty, Jameis Winston will be starting at quarterback on Sunday as the Bucs play at Buffalo, coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday afternoon.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) watches a replay while sitting out with an injury during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. What to watch this weekend: 'The Walking Dead,' Stephen King's '1922'

    Blogs

    100 episodes of walkers: The Walking Dead

    Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead.
  5. Editorial: GOP failing to protect health care for Florida kids

    Editorials

    In Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature is considering how to make it easier for low-income families to apply for subsidized health insurance for their children. In Washington, Congress cannot even agree on how to keep paying for the popular program. There is a disconnect that threatens health coverage for about 215,000 …

    In Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature is considering how to make it easier for low-income families to apply for subsidized health insurance for their children. In Washington, Congress cannot even agree on how to keep paying for the popular program.