Alexandria Natural Resource Manager Retires Early in Frustration
27-Year Veteran Decries City’s Needlessly Destructive Environmental Policies
Washington, DC —Alexandria’s most prominent advocate for natural resource protection says he is not allowed to do his job and therefore is ending his nearly 30-year public service career this month, according to his retirement letter posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). He cites a pattern of “unethical” and needlessly damaging actions by city managers as making his continued tenure “intolerable.”
Rod Simmons is a botanist and plant ecologist who serves as Natural Resource Manager for the City of Alexandria, located on Virginia’s bank of the Potomac River approximately 7 miles south of downtown Washington, D.C. He has worked for Alexandria for 27 years and is a well-known and highly respected environmental advocate in the region.
In his letter, Mr. Simmons concludes that under the current city leadership it has become “futile to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of Natural Resource Manager” pointing to –
- A series of development projects that have unnecessarily destroyed “Alexandria’s natural resources, as well as the needless local extinction of a regionally rare species”;
- Systemic attempts to subvert “scientific and professional integrity” in required project assessments; and
- Interference in carrying out his core job duties, suppressing environmental reviews, and disavowing long-held environmental policies and practices.
“The City of Alexandria is forcing public servants who feel the need to report problems to become whistleblowers because such reports are not welcome, no matter how serious the concern,” commented PEER Staff Litigation & Policy Attorney Colleen Teubner, who helped Rod challenge a recent reprimand for bringing “discredit” on the city by disclosing environmental drawbacks of a project. “The City of Alexandria brings discredit upon itself by not being honest with the public about the consequences of its actions.” The City of Alexandria has retained an outside investigator to look into Mr. Simmons’ whistleblower claims.
One tactic that city managers are using to prevent him from exercising his Natural Resource Manager duties is to limit his participation in stream construction projects to that of a private citizen, even though his job description expressly includes such matters.
“Rod’s job had been to raise a red flag about ill-advised projects or repeated violations of the public trust,” added Teubner. “Unfortunately, Alexandria has made it clear that the only way Rod can faithfully serve the public is to step away from city service.”