WASHINGTON, DC–The long-time head of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal program has been abruptly transferred to a training slot, according to an internal memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Letterio (Leo) D’Amico had served as the Director of EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training since 1999. Effective last Sunday (July 6), D’Amico has been assigned to a subordinate position at the same grade level running the agency’s National Enforcement Training Institute–even though that position is currently filled.
Criminal enforcement by EPA has sharply declined under the Bush Administration, with new referrals for federal prosecution falling by more than 40 percent. In a PEER survey released this spring, EPA criminal investigators and attorneys blasted D’Amico’s management, citing misuse of funds, rampant cronyism and pervasive fear of retaliation:
Nearly three of every four respondents said that EPA’s criminal program is not “headed in the right direction”;
Nearly one in three reported being “aware of serious misuse of funds in the EPA criminal program” while more than one in three experienced “criminal investigative resources being used to provide personal services (such as walking dogs, fetching dry cleaning, etc.)” for then-Administrator Christie Whitman; and
More than four of every five employees did not think the agency’s criminal program “is being well managed. Fewer than one in five registered “confidence in the professionalism of senior management in the EPA criminal program.”
According to agency employees, D’Amico’s removal is part of a larger restructuring of EPA’s criminal program, including a management review and possible closure of field offices. Compounding the publicity about diversion of resources from enforcement, the criminal program is facing an unscheduled shortfall of funds due to cost overruns on new non-enforcement, security assignments. Last week, for example, over D’Amico’s objections, EPA refused an FBI request to assign a team of agents to cover next week’s Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.
“Leo D’Amico is merely a fall guy for agency political leadership unwilling to commit to consistent enforcement against corporate polluters,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch who noted that J.P. Suarez, the political appointee who moved D’Amico, is a Whitman protégé lacking any experience in environmental law. “The issue of plummeting pollution enforcement should be front and center in confirmation hearings for the next EPA Administrator.”