Dr. Benji Brumberg to be nominated for environmental award

Anne Kilmer viceroy at GATE.NET
Wed May 21 00:26:47 EDT 2003

Please join in this effort to support our friend Benji, who brought his 
scientific knowledge and good common sense to the world of butterflies.
As a result of his efforts, Florida butterfliers can work together 
without conflict to support the  project, led by Tom Emmel and Jaret 
Daniels of the University of Florida, to restore rare and threatened 
butterflies to their historical territories in Florida.
Anne Kilmer
South Florida and Ireland

Killateeaun, Tourmakeady
Claremorris, Co. Mayo,

Lana Edwards wrote:
> Hello Everyone:
> Dr. Benji Brumberg is being nominated for the Sierra Club Wayburn 
> Award. If you, or someone you know, would like to write a letter of 
> support it has to be e-mailed to Ed Dobson by the end of this week.  
> Complete information follows.  Lana Edwards, NABA-Atala Chapter
> To: Concerned Citizens For Dr. Benji Brumberg:
> The Sierra Club Honors and Awards Program recognizes people both within 
> the Club and outside the Club who have made outstanding contributions to 
> protecting the environment. Awards are given in a variety of areas, 
> including conservation, outings, administration, photojournalism, and 
> newsletter publishing.
> The deadline for nominations each year is June 1. Awards are announced 
> at the Club's annual meeting in San Francisco in September. This year’s 
> awards will be presented at an event to be held Saturday,
> September 20, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 480 Sutter Street in San
> Francisco.
> Dr. Brumberg, former Ombudsman for the Florida DEP, will be nominated 
> for the Edgar Wayburn Award, which honors outstanding service to the 
> environmental cause by a person in government, either executive or 
> legislative.
> This year’s awards will be presented at an event to be held Saturday,
> September 20, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 480 Sutter Street in San
> Francisco.
> Letters of support are crucial to this effort. If so inclined, please 
> take the time to author a letter supporting Benji Brumberg for the 
> Sierra Club Edgar Wayburn Award.
>     The letter should clearly explain why you feel Dr. Brumberg is 
> worthy of this award and should list his accomplishments, his 
> effectiveness as a public servant and his value as an environmental 
> steward within the Florida government, as you know him. Be concise, 
> specific and truthful. Remember, this award is given to a public servant 
> who has stood up for the environment, something Benji did each day of 
> his service; it eventually led to his downfall in an administration that 
> could not stand his honesty and environmental commitment.
> Be sure to describe yourself and your job/position/environmental connection.
> Please address the letter to Ed Dobson, Director, Sierra Club and e-mail 
> it to Ed at e.dobson at juno.com 
> <http://us.f802.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=e.dobson@juno.com> as soon 
> as possible. Ed is required to have the complete nomination in by June 
> 1, so he will need the letters right away, by the end of this week, if 
> at all possible. If you have any questions, you can contact me at 
> 727-510-5474 or email me at pgallag2 at tampabay.rr.com 
> <http://us.f802.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=pgallag2@tampabay.rr.com> 
> or e-mail Ed directly at the above address.
> State Ombudsman is Fired
> In Jeb Bush's 'One Florida,' apparently only one opinion is allowed
> He saved the Miami Blue butterfly. He saved the world's largest 
> aboriginal canoe site at Newnan's Lake. He saved the Florida Folk 
> Festival and a whole bunch of dolphins and manatees. He saved taxpayers 
> hundreds of thousands of dollars by mediating enviro-lawsuits. His 
> "alternate dispute resolution" idea changed forever the way Florida 
> government enters the legal arena.
> Dr. Benji Brumberg, Ombudsman for the Florida Department of 
> Environmental Protection (DEP), spent three-and-a-half exemplary years 
> looking over bureaucratic shoulders as the public's chief watchdog over 
> the stewards of the environment. He openly admitted, "I try to pull 
> everything toward the green side, if I can."
> Suddenly, without warning, at about the same hour National Public Radio 
> was extolling his virtues across the country, Jeb Bush's "green man" got 
> fired.
> The tree fell very quietly. It was two weeks ago, out of the blue. More 
> quickly than the gubernatorial appointee could clean out his desk, all 
> mention of Brumberg's name and accomplishments -- including the public 
> "Bible" he had produced, listing ombudsmen and citizen service officers 
> throughout state government -- were summarily excised from the state 
> website.
> And no one from the Governor on down can give a satisfactory reason why. 
> Brumberg left Tallahassee immediately after the firing and cannot be 
> reached. Neither Bush nor DEP Secretary David Struhs would provide a 
> comment to the Weekly Planet.
> The official word, from stern-voiced Deena Wells in the DEP press 
> office: "The ombudsman's office was reorganized and his position was 
> eliminated."
> According to Wells, Brumberg's duties have been divvied up among six 
> regional external affairs/citizen's service managers. "It's nice to know 
> it takes six people to take his place," said a disturbed Rep. Richard 
> Machek (R-Delray Beach). Machek expressed shock at the news of 
> Brumberg's dismissal; the two were partners in an ongoing fight to save 
> the Okeechobee Battlefield.
> "This man was an excellent state worker. He did his very best in every 
> issue he was associated with. I will continue to seek his expertise and 
> counsel. I'll do everything I can to help this man back on his feet. I 
> am going to look into this."
>  From New Mexico, Sierra Club national board member Ed Dobson expressed 
> dismay at Brumberg's departure: "Benji Brumberg was one of the best 
> things about Jeb Bush. He seemed to be independent; he could walk 
> through any door without going through bureaucratic channels. He seemed 
> free to operate to solve problems. I think he was probably the only real 
> environmentalist Bush had.
> "Somebody didn't want his or her shoulder being looked over. When an 
> ombudsman gets fired, without apparent cause, something is wrong."
> Brumberg's personnel file, obtained by the Weekly Planet, adds to the 
> mystery. The file contains not a single letter of complaint, rather, 
> page after page of high evaluations and positive remarks.
> In a "Special Recognition/ Accomplishment" memo from Struhs last June, 
> the Secretary wrote: "There is no way to determine the worth of Benji 
> Brumberg in monetary terms. During his 18 months with the Department he 
> has settled disputes that have dragged on for more than a decade. His 
> skill as a mediator has probably saved the state hundreds of thousands 
> of dollars in legal fees and, were it quantifiable, generated an equal 
> amount of good will with the public. He is a remarkable individual and 
> the go-to guy to solve the tough problems."
> Brumberg's skill in resolving long-standing legal disputes, outlined in 
> a memo he sent to Bush, led to the Governor's Executive Order 0287, 
> requiring legal disputes to go to alternative dispute resolution first 
> before plunging headfirst into the costly courtroom.
> A former DEP attorney ties the whole thing to Bush: "The firing of the 
> DEP ombudsman sends a chilling signal to DEP employees that dissent will 
> not be tolerated, even if it is in the interest of the health and safety 
> of Floridians," said Jerry Phillips, now with Public Employees for 
> Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
> PEER monitors state environmental agencies, while encouraging and 
> protecting whistleblowers. PEER closed its Florida office not long after 
> Brumberg was hired in the fall of 1999.
> "It sounds like Governor Bush has shifted his focus from 'One Florida' 
> to 'One Opinion,'" Phillips said. "Weighing differing opinions is 
> absolutely crucial to making sound policy. While firing dissenters may 
> serve to bolster the Governor's efforts to assist corporate polluters, 
> such actions are bad for policy and bad for morale."
> Phillips said PEER will reopen its Florida office in May. "This move 
> certainly underscores the need for an organization like PEER to get 
> re-established in Florida. The message being sent is clear: Do not try 
> to interfere with the intentions of this administration to assist its 
> corporate buddies unless you, the state employee, are willing to lose 
> your job."
> Brumberg ruffled feathers in other governmental arenas when he found 
> poor performance. At the State Department in particular, he had few 
> friends. He went up against former Secretary of State Katherine Harris 
> in the controversial transfer of the Florida Folk Festival from State 
> (which no longer wanted it) to DEP. In the Newnan's Lake case, where 
> State Department officials signed off on permits that allowed bulldozers 
> in an archaeological site, he brought in the Seminole Indians and had 
> Bush issue a moratorium banning the activity.
> "I sure hope he didn't get fired because they thought he was hanging out 
> with me," said deposed Seminole Chief Jim Billie. "He preserved our 
> history on that lake. But we haven't really seen him since."
> At the time of his dismissal, Brumberg was putting his final marks on 
> the Miami Blue butterfly case. When the federal government failed to 
> take action to save the last colony of the world's most endangered 
> butterfly at Bahia Honda State Park, Brumberg brought angry 
> lawsuit-toting citizens together with state and federal officials and 
> engineered a first-ever emergency state endangered species listing.
> Bob Ballard, a DEP Deputy Secretary, gave Brumberg sole credit for 
> saving the Miami Blue at a recent public gathering. It was a shining 
> moment for the much-beleaguered DEP. In fact, his staff was gathered 
> around a radio listening to an NPR report on Brumberg and the Miami Blue 
> when the axe came down.
> "There is not another single person in all of Florida state government 
> who can say they saved an endangered species. Benji Brumberg can say 
> that. He was an example of state government at its best. I am outraged 
> that he is gone," said Dennis Olle, a south Florida attorney who worked 
> on the case for the North American Butterfly Association. "No good deed 
> goes unpunished up there, I guess.
> "Brumberg was not a flaming environmentalist. He is conservative, 
> business-like. He went out of his way to make all the bureaucrats look 
> good. ... Now the same crew is doing its best to screw up the Everglades 
> restoration. And they put out their only shining light!"
> Happiness is like a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just
> beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly may alight upon you..
> Nathaniel Hawthorne 


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