ADEM asks for public comment on LeFleur's job performance

By ED HOWELL
Posted 6/26/19

If you want to comment about how the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is handling the spill and death of fish on the Black Warrior River, the department just …

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ADEM asks for public comment on LeFleur's job performance

Posted

If you want to comment about how the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is handling the spill and death of fish on the Black Warrior River, the department just opened a door for you. 

On Monday, the department issued a notice from the chairman of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission (AEMC) Personnel Committee to gather public comments for a job performance evaluation of the Director Lance LeFleur's job performance. 

ADEM is the agency that oversees environmental laws and regulations in the state. AL.com said the AEMC is a civilian board that oversees ADEM and conducts annual performance reviews of the director. 

LeFleur has been the focus of criticism in the wake of a spill of partially treated sewage and waste from a Tyson Farms plant in Cullman County into Dave Young Creek, which flows into Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River. Critics have also pointed to water pollution in the Tennessee River, related to a 3M plant in Decatur. 

He was particularly visible when ABC 33/40 reporter Cynthia Gould approached him at a June 21 meeting, where the Mulberry Fork spill was not on the agenda. Gould tried on camera to ask whether the water was safe after the spill involving Mulberry Fork. He said any information needed was on the website. (ADEM released a statement on the site about the spill.)

She told LeFleur  the answer was not adequate and that people would not understand that, and that people want to know if the water was safe to drink and when was the last time ADEM tested it. 

"The water is safe to drink," he replied. "This is an ongoing matter, and we owe it to these people to give them due process as we do for anybody." He then talked over her next question ("But you're putting due process above health and safety?") by saying, "Any of the information you would like to have is on the website," and thanked her for coming as he left the room. 

An ABC 33/40 anchor then noted the website comment and said, "Clearly state officials paid by taxpayers didn't want to talk about your safety or answer the questions Cynthia Gould has, trying to answer them for you."

AL.com columnist Kyle Whitmire was critical of LeFleur after the interview, saying that "they" referred to "industries that make it unsafe for real people to live." He also criticized the agency for not informing citizens in North Alabama when 3M self-reported it had under reported for years what it dumped into the Tennessee River. 

Monday's notice said Chairman Thomas P. Walters of the Personnel Committee directed the committee to "obtain feedback from the full commission and general public on ADEM Director LeFleur's job performance," and to return back to the commission with feedback and recommendations "relative to Director LeFleur's job performance." 

He went on to say, "The Personnel Committee, on behalf of the AEMC, wishes to solicit input from the general public that will aid the committee in this job performance evaluation." 

Written comments regarding LeFleur's job performance should be sent to Alabama Environmental Management Commission, Attention: Personnel Committee, P.O. Box 301463, Montgomery, AL 36130-1463, or by email to aemc@adem.alabama.gov.

The period to be evaluated for LeFleur's job performance will stretch from Oct. 20, 2018, which is the day after the commission reached its decision concerning its last evaluation, to July 31, 2019, the deadline for receipt of comments for the evaluation underway now. 

Written comments should include "ADEM Director Job Performance Evaluation" at the subject of the comments and must be received by the committee no later than 5 p.m. on July 31.

AL.com reported, "The annual reviews are usually conducted during the commission’s October meeting, which this year would be Friday, Oct. 18. LeFleur received a raise from the commission in 2017, increasing his salary to $164,419.20, the highest allowed under the director’s pay grade scale."