August 28, 2014

Nixon reinstates one, fires another over E. coli controversy

Governor Jay Nixon is taking responsibility for the withholding of information regarding E. coli contamination at the Lake of the Ozarks earlier this year, and has – in effect – pointed the finger at a longtime aide.
Joe Bindbeutel, who was Deputy Director of the Department of Natural Resources when the information was withheld, had been appointed to a post as an administrative law judge, a job that is subject to Senate confirmation. But Nixon has withdrawn the nomination as a result of an internal investigation on what happened following the discovery of those high E. coli levels.

Governor Nixon's news conference

Governor Nixon's news conference

At a Friday morning news conference in his Capitol office, the Governor also announced that he is reinstating suspended DNR Director Mark Templeton next week.

“I believe that Mark has served a just punishment,” said Nixon. “He has had more than two weeks of unpaid leave. He has faced reproach from the public and the press. He has spoken at length about his own failings on this matter. He has paid a price for the Department’s mistakes.”

Nixon pointed to what he claims is a systemic failure regarding the reporting of contamination information from the Lake of the Ozarks.

“DNR’s internal procedure for closing beaches is fundamentally flawed,” said Nixon. “Despite written guidance on when state beaches should be closed, there are no mechanisms in place to ensure those responsible actually close them. This is simply unacceptable.”

Nixon says the problem goes back at least to 2005. While he takes responsibility for what happened earlier this year, Nixon points to communications problems and “breakdowns” that stood in the way of the full information being made available. At least two members of Nixon’s inner circle were aware of the findings from the Lake and sat on those results. But they have not been disciplined for their actions.

A State Senate committee investigating the withholding continues its work. Chairman Senator Brad Lager (R-Savannah) claims there has been a cover-up.

Download/Listen: Governor Nixon’s news conference (27:00 MP3)