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Politics

Rick Scott Defends Herschel Vinyard over Permitting Suspension

May 29, 2012 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott defended his top natural resources watchdogover the suspension of a wetlands expert who refused to issue a permit to a North Florida company that wanted to use its land to offer businesses wetlands credits.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard has done a great job, Scott responded Wednesday, when asked if he is satisfied in how the matter was handled.

Scott said he was updated on the case by the DEP through a report or verbal presentation.

Hes done a real good job making sure we care about the environment, but we make sure the jobs keep going, Scott added of Vinyard.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, DEP wetlands expert Connie Bersok claimed in a May 9 memo that the business, Highlands Ranch, wanted wetlands credits for preserving land that isnt considered wet. Two days later she was suspended by Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn.

Read more here.

FDEP Press Secretary Jennifer Diaz confirmed on Wednesday that Bersok has been put on administrative leave with pay and that an investigation is ongoing.

I do not know when the investigation will end or if it will end up in a report, Diaz said.

Vinyard, previously the director of a Jacksonville shipyard and an attorney who practiced environmental law, was part of Scotts Economic Development Transition Team before being tapped to head the DEP in January 2011.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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