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DEP official resigns, had sought St. Petersburg job while investigating city

Published Dec. 24, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — A veteran Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee has resigned her position following revelations that she had been offered a higher-paying job with St. Petersburg — the same city she had been investigating for its massive sewage discharges.

Michele Duggan, 52, resigned her $61,999 position as environmental consultant in the Temple Terrace office of the DEP's Southwest District on Thursday, said DEP spokesman Shannon Herbon.

Duggan left to pursue other opportunities, Herbon said Friday.

Her resignation came two weeks after her failed attempt to secure the city job, which paid up to $111,304.

Duggan had been conditionally offered the city's environmental compliance manager position, whose duties include overseeing the testing of sewage discharges to determine public safety risks.

After the Tampa Bay Times wrote about the conditional hire this month, Kriseman pulled the plug on Duggan's employment with the city, saying through a spokesman that the city's courting of Duggan damaged public trust.

When asked if Duggan would have lost her state job if she hadn't resigned, Herbon responded that the agency, "out of respect" doesn't discuss personnel issues. It was unclear if Duggan had been disciplined for her actions. Her personnel file wasn't immediately available for review.

Duggan had not been the lead investigator for DEP, but she worked closely with Southwest Regional director Mary Yeargan in that probe and was listed as the point person in the pending state consent order that contains $820,000 in fines and outlines mandated sewer fixes for the city.

Duggan declined to comment Friday. So did Claude Tankersley, the city's Public Works administrator, who reached out to Duggan in October to discuss job options with her. Tankersley has since apologized and been reprimanded by Mayor Rick Kriseman for his actions.

Duggan's departure is the second high-profile casualty of the city's ongoing sewage crisis.

Kriseman fired Water Resources director Steve Leavitt this week for his role in the 200 million gallons of spills and dumps since August 2015. And Tom Gibson was demoted from his leadership role in the engineering department and saw his pay cut by more than $30,000.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

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