Following Concerns Raised by CLF, Maine DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown Resigns

May 10, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

After weeks of debate regarding Darryl Brown’s eligibility to serve as the commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, on April 27 Attorney General William Schneider issued a letter stating that Brown was likely unqualified to serve in the position under Maine law. Following that announcement, Brown resigned.

CLF and others voiced their concerns about a potential conflict of interest that would affect Brown’s ability to continue serving in the post in the months following his appointment in February. Maine law states that anyone who has received at least 10 percent of their income over the past two years from work for clients under the Clean Water Act is ineligible to serve as DEP commissioner. Brown is the founder and sole shareholder of Main-Land Development Consultants, an engineering and land-use planning firm, and had originally stated at his confirmation hearing in January that between 25 and 35 percent of his firm’s work fell into that category, but later insisted that he did not exceed the 10 percent threshold. Schneider’s letter stated that if Brown couldn’t produce documents demonstrating that his income did not exceed the 10 percent threshold, he would be ineligible for the position. The Attorney General also made clear that any such documents submitted by Brown would be subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.  Claiming that the potential release of documents could potentially hurt his business, Brown’s attorney had sought assurances that the documents would not be released.  Brown’s resignation followed shortly after the Attorney General’s letter was released.

Brown’s resignation must have been anticipated by the LePage Administration, which immediately announced that Brown would become the director of the State Planning Office, which LePage has previously indicated he intends to do away with by 2012.  Jim Brooks, currently the director of the DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality, will serve as acting DEP commissioner.

ME Attorney General Denies Request to Issue Opinion on Commisioner Brown

Apr 8, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

At the end of the day Wednesday, Attorney General William Schneider sent a response to the Emily Cain, Democratic minority leader, declining her request that the Attorney General prepare an opinion regarding the continued authority and eligibility of Darryl Brown to serve as Commissioner of the DEP.  The Attorney General stated that because his office was involved in the preparation of the response by Commissioner Brown to the EPA with respect to federal law and that “[a]ny final response to the EPA will be made through this office,” it was not appropriate for the AG’s office to issue a separate opinion.

It’s difficult to ascertain what the Attorney General actually is saying here.  If he is saying that the AG’s office will be independently reviewing Commissioner Brown’s response, and particularly the facts as to whether more than 10 percent of Brown’s income over the past two years was derived from work for clients under the Clean Water Act, before it goes to the EPA in order to determine compliance with Maine law, then we applaud him for finally addressing this issue.  If, as suggested in yesterday’s article in the Portland Press Herald, he is saying that the Attorney General’s office will be acting as Mr. Brown’s lawyer in responding to the petition filed with the EPA, then we strongly disagree with that course of action.  At a minimum, the Attorney General should clarify exactly what role his office will play.

It is our opinion that the proper course for the Attorney General is to conduct a detailed analysis of the facts that Mr. Brown collects and presents concerning his income sources over the last two years.  If that review indicates that he has not exceeded the 10 percent threshold, then Mr. Brown should continue with the important work of the DEP.  But if the data shows that he crossed that threshold, then Mr. Brown should resign.  In either case, a speedy and transparent resolution of this issue is paramount.

CLF Calls for ME Attorney General to Determine Eligibility of DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown

Apr 6, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

ME DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown (Photo credit: maine.gov)

CLF is once again calling for increased transparency from the LePage Administration, this time with regard to whether or not Darryl Brown, who was confirmed by the Senate last month as Governor LePage’s appointment to be commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is eligible to stay in his current position according to State and federal law.

Brown is the founder and remains the sole shareholder of an engineering and land-use planning firm that assists developers and industry obtain permits from the DEP and EPA.   At his confirmation hearing in January, Brown said that between 25 and 35 percent of his firm’s work involved DEP permitting.  Under state law, (38 MRSA $ 341-A(3)(B)), anyone who has received at least 10 percent of their income in the last two years directly or indirectly from projects permitted under the Clean Water Act are not eligible to serve as DEP commissioner.

The question of Mr. Brown’s eligibility to serve as Commissioner was first raised by former CLF staff attorney Steve Hinchman on behalf of the Androscoggin River Alliance in a February 7 petition filed with the EPA under a CWA provision that is similar, although not as broad, as the Maine statute.  Importantly though, both provisions use the same 10 percent threshold test.  EPA has requested that Mr. Brown provide information by April 15 to determine whether that threshold has been crossed.  Maine’s Attorney General and the Governor’s office have refused to say whether they have even met to discuss the situation, never mind how they intend to resolve it.  As an independent Constitutional officer, CLF has called upon the Attorney General’s office to provide a formal opinion as to how the law applies to Commissioner Brown and whether he has crossed the 10 percent threshold in the last two years, a call formally echoed by the House Democrats on April 5.

CLF will continue to push for a fair and speedy resolution of the issue, whatever that resolution might be.  CLF is not pushing this issue in order to disqualify Commissioner Brown nor to make a statement as to his performance as Commissioner.  Rather, we’re pushing to make sure that the law is interpreted and applied correctly.

It is possible that even though 25-35 percent of Brown’s was related to DEP permitting work but only 10 percent of his work was related to Clean Water Act permits.  But there will be no confidence in such a conclusion until a transparent and thorough analysis is conducted by the lawyers for all of Maine’s people, the Attorney General.

“Transparent” LePage Administration Not So Transparent

Feb 9, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

The LePage Administration appears to be failing its first formal test of what it claimed would be the most transparent administration in Maine’s history.

In response to a request we filed at the end of January under the Freedom of Access Act for documents related to Governor LePage’s so-called Regulatory “Reform” Proposals, the LePage Administration has stated that it would not provide any documents generated during the transition period for the new Administration, but only those documents generated after the January 5 inauguration. The announcement is in direct conflict with Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and relevant court decisions.

CLF seeks documents related not only to the proposals which threaten to eviscerate four decades of laws and regulations that benefit both the environment and economy of Maine, but also documents related to the “red tape” meetings organized by the Administration and business interest groups in December and January and the nomination of DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown.

“If they didn’t consult with Mr. Brown on these proposals, the vast majority of which are directed at the department he was to lead, then who did they consult with?” asked Sean Mahoney, director of CLF Maine. “It appears to us by the nature of many of these proposals and the document itself, that many of the proposals represent the wish list not from Maine residents or businesses, but out-of-state corporations and trade organizations.”

The Administration’s position is not only counter to its professed goals of transparency and putting people before politics but is legally unsupportable under the clear language of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act and as interpreted by the courts.  If they fail to change their position, CLF will take the fight for transparency and full disclosure to the courts. More >