By: Eliot Kleinberg, Palm Beach Post
Originally published on March 18, 2015
The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says it’s filed a complaintarguing a state employee was reprimanded for speaking about climate change at an official meeting and keeping notes on the subject in official minutes.
The complaint says that on March 9, Barton Bibler, a longtime worker for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, got a letter of reprimand, was ordered to take two days leave and then was told not to return until he had medical clearance of his fitness for duty.
“There’s no such policy banning the use of ‘climate change,’” DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said late Wednesday. She had no specific comment on the Bibler case.
“Your actions were disrespectful, unprofessional and represent insubordination,” Gengenbach wrote.“engaged in personal poliotical advocacy related to the Keystone XL Pipeline” and that he provided his supervisors a summary suggesting climate change was on the agenda when it wasn’t.
According to PEER’s complaint, Bibler — currently land management plan coordinator for DEP’s Division of State Lands — attended a Florida Coastal Managers Forum on Feb. 27 at which climate change and sea-level rise were discussed.
PEER said Bibler later “was directed to remove any hot button issues, especially explicit references to climate change, and then was given a letter of reprimand for supposedly misrepresenting that the ‘official meeting agenda included climate change.’”
Bibler “has fallen through a professional looking glass in a Florida where the words ‘climate change’ may not be uttered, or even worse, written down,” Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former attorney for the agency, said in a press release. “If anyone needs mental health screening it is Governor Rick Scott and other officials telling state workers to pretend that climate change and sea-level rise do not exist.”
In its complaint, the group asked the DEP’s Office of Inspector General to investigate Bibler’s case; to respond to the perception “that topics such as ‘climate change’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘sea-level rise’ are off-limits;” and to look into whether the alleged alteration of minutes violated the law.
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, quoting former employees and contractors, has reported Scott had ordered the phrases banned from official reports and speeches. Scott has denied that.
Last week, the Associated Press reported, Florida members of the group Forecast the Facts filed a complaint asking the DEP inspector general to get to the bottom of whether Scott did issue his edict.