Albany Times-Union broke it tonight:
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/arch ... nis-fired/
DEC commissioner Pete Grannis fired (updated)
Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 8:09 PM by Casey Seiler in David Paterson, Environment
Pete Grannis, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation since 2007, was fired Thursday by Gov. David Paterson. A state source said it was due to “poor performance and insubordination.”
A front-page story in Tuesday’s Times Union described one likely cause: the leak of a memo sent by DEC to the Budget Division that laid out in stark terms the possible consequences of the planned layoffs of more than 200 agency employees.
The unsigned, undated memo warned that fewer polluted sites would be cleaned up, fewer regulators would be available to oversee the potential natural gas drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale, and stocking of game fish could halt.
In order to avoid cuts to programs that protect human health or address immediate environmental damage, the memo suggests the most logical places for deep cuts would be outdoor recreation and sports — including skiing, fishing, hunting, camping and hiking.
“Many of our programs are hanging by a thread. The public would be shocked to learn how thin we are in many areas,” the memo stated. “DEC is in the weakest position that it has been since it was created 40 years ago.”
Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook confirmed the dismissal but would not comment. DEC spokesman Yancey Roy also declined comment.
A long-serving former Assembly member from Manhattan, Grannis was appointed to the top job in DEC by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007. Grannis’ bio on the DEC’s website notes that he began his career in public service at the agency in the early 1970s, when he worked as a compliance counsel.
Update: In an interview Thursday night with TU environmental reporter Brian Nearing — who wrote the article on the leaked memo — Grannis said that Larry Schwartz, the governor’s top aide, called him about 4 p.m. Wednesday to demand his resignation over the memo becoming public.
”Here I am being called on the carpet for doing what we were supposed to do, for being asked to tell the administration what the cuts they want meant,” Grannis said. “Apparently facts don’t sit well with this administration.”
Grannis protested that the memo was not leaked with his knowledge, and left two telephone messages with Paterson, one Wednesday evening and another Thursday morning, seeking a chance to make his case. “Larry Schwartz said the governor would not talk to me,” Grannis said.
Calling Schwartz a “hatchet man” and a “thug,” Grannis released a harsh email exchange between himself and Schwartz during Wednesday and Thursday.
In one email, Schwartz wrote, “Avoiding me is not going to change the outcome. Either you cooperate with regards to your resignation or a release will go out saying you have resigned by the end of the day. All the calls that you are having people make is not going to change the decision. You can either do this in a cooperative fashion or a hostile fashion. That is up to you.”
Schwartz followed that with an email that stated, “It’s unfortunate that you have not contacted me tonight as we discussed in my office earlier today. This is to remind you that you are not to report to work tomorrow. If I don’t hear back from you by 10am tomorrow a press release will go out without your input. Failure to comply with this request and what I discussed with you today will result in your immediate termination tomorrow morning and the press release will reflect that.”
Grannis countered on Thursday:
In response to your ultimatums (set forth below), I will not resign from my position. As you know, I would have liked to discuss this with Governor Paterson directly, and was surprised that you would not permit me to speak with him. Your suggestion that I am being fired because a memo outlining the consequences of further cuts to DEC (which I was asked to provide), leaked to the press, is absurd. I’m not concerned about the threat in your note that this will move forward in a “hostile fashion.”
Grannis said Schwartz was using him “as a very convenient excuse” after a number of environmental groups and others began calling Paterson’s office after the layoff memo became public. He said he was not sure what he was going to do next, but he did note that because he was fired, that state ethics laws prohibiting his appearance before agencies that he was involved with as DEC commission would not apply.