Watchdog Group Critical of DEP

By: Mike Tolbert
By: Mike Tolbert

According to the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the DEP promoted Henry Hernandez two years ago based on his campaign contributions.

Peer is now asking the state attorney's office to begin a criminal investigation. Peer claims documents show Hernandez interviewed with a local attorney William Harrison, Jr., who is a lobbyist for the St. Joe Company that also served on the Board of Directors for a local landfill Big Wheel Recycling.

Under Hernandez, a DEP investigation into environmental violations by the landfill were dropped. Peer says Hernandez was certainly qualified for the job, but they disagree with the message his hiring sends.

Jerry Phillips with Florida PEER says, "If you put yourself in the shoes of a state employee and you see that your ability to have any upward mobility depends on how much money you contribute to an individual's campaign, that has to have a chilling effect."

Hernandez did not return our phone calls. The DEP denies PEER's claims and says, "Agency hiring decisions are based on good public policy and are in the best interests of Florida environments and residents."

DEP officials say there is no link between Hernandez and Big Wheel.


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