Top officials within the Nixon Administration deny they have been uncooperative with a Senate review of DNR action to withhold information about contamination at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Sen. Brad Lager (R-Savannah) has complained his committee’s review of Department of Natural Resources’ action has been slowed by an uncooperative DNR. DNR Director Mark Templeton denies the charge and defends his decision to halt interviews between Senate committee staff and DNR employees until the DNR staff attorney was present.
“It was originally three (Senate committee) staffers and just a DNR employee,” Templeton tells the Missourinet. “The DNR employee, in the department, needed to have someone in the interview with him.”
Templeton rejects suggestions that DNR action has hurt the Senate committee work.
“Absolutely, we have not hurt their investigation,” asserts Templeton.
Templeton has been suspended without pay while the Nixon Administration investigates what went wrong. Governor Nixon Chief of Staff John Watson says the Senate committee focus and the focus of the governor’s office are different.
“If their focus is trying to determine legislative changes, I don’t believe at the outset that’s a primary focus of ours and, in all likelihood, not much of the focus at all,” Watson says.
Governor Nixon has named DNR Deputy Director Bill Bryan to serve as acting director during Templeton’s two-week suspension. Nixon also has ordered Bryan and Department of Corrections Inspector General Chris Pickering to conduct a thorough investigation of DNR’s action. The investigation is to focus on why beaches at Lake of the Ozarks state parks which registered high E. coli levels weren’t closed. Nixon has also ordered Bryan to hold accountable those responsible for not closing the beaches and withholding the information from the public for a month.