TALLAHASSEE — Jon Steverson has resigned from his position as
secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after
His resignation came at a time when Florida budget officials
questioned a legal contract he managed that was in excess of $54.4
million, according to a report
on the Tampa Bay Times website. However, a spokeswoman with the
department said Steverson was moving on for career reasons.
“He (Steverson) resigned simply as the result of an opportunity
in the private sector,” Lauren Engel, the DEP’s communication
director, told the Florida Record.
Steverson’s last day with the DEP will be Feb. 3, according to
the Times report.
He will then take a position with Foley Lardner, one of the law firms
that has a contract with the state.
Foley Lardner was one of the firms hired by the state to oversee a
lawsuit against Georgia. The suit, filed by Florida in 2013, claimed
Georgia’s excessive use of water from rivers was hindering Northern
Florida’s economy, the Times reported.
“DEP is working with members to provide more information on the
costs associated with this litigation,” Engel said. “We remain
committed to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The state of
Florida has been fighting for nearly two decades to protect the
historic flows of the Apalachicola River, and we will continue to
protect Florida from the environment and economic harms caused by
Georgia’s overconsumption of water.”
Foley Lardner has been paid $2.6 million over the past two years,
according to the Times report.
In 2015-16, lawmakers set aside a total of $23.9 million in legal
fees and costs in the case against Georgia. Some lawmakers saw this
as excessive spending. About two weeks ago, Steverson asked for
another $17.1 million to continue to finance the litigation. This
would bring the total cost to $41 million for the year.
“I want to thank Jon Steverson for his hard work,” Gov. Rick
Scott said in a statement published
on FloridaPolitics.com. “Jon has devoted his career to protecting
Florida’s pristine environment, and I am proud of the tremendous
and historic strides we have made toward safeguarding Florida’s
natural resources during his time at DEP. Under his leadership, we
have invested in Florida’s natural lands and completed projects,
which will ensure protection of our springs, restoration of the
Everglades and the continued enhancement of our award-winning state
parks for years to come.”
In his resignation letter,
Steverson praised the Florida DEP for its successes.
“Your efforts have led to historic levels of funding for
Everglades restoration and springs protection, including ensuring a
dedicated source of funding for these critical water bodies,”
Scott has appointed Ryan Mathews as the interim secretary of the
DEP, according to a news
release on FlaGov.com. Ryan has been with the DEP since 2015 and
has served as director of the Office of Water Policy and deputy
secretary of regulatory programs. He previously served as the
associate legislative-affairs director for the Florida League of
Ryan holds a Master of Laws in environmental and natural-resources
law from the University of Denver — Sturm College of Law.
“Ryan’s hard work and dedication to protecting Florida’s
environment have led the way to improved water quality and stronger
environmental policies for Florida. I am confident that he will
continue to fight to protect Florida’s pristine environment as
interim secretary,” Scott said in the news
A permanent appointment will be overseen by the Cabinet Governance
Guidelines at a later time, the release said.