Directors placed on unpaid leave during sewage dumping inquiry

Evan Lambert reports

- Two city directors have been placed on unpaid leave while an independent review into the dumping of wastewater into the Tampa Bay after heavy rain events is conducted. 

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's office said Water Resources Director Steve Leavitt and Engineering Director Tom Gibson. John Palenchar and Brejesh Prayman have been named as interim directors by Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley.

The mayor's office said Kriseman would address city council Thursday on the status of the independent review as well as a management study of water resources and a plan for Leavitt and Gibson's employment going forward.

Meanwhile, Congressman David Jolly (FL-13) offered whistleblower protection to city employees who wanted to talk about sewage dumping and system problems, but might fear retaliation.  

Preston Rudie issued the following statement on behalf of Congressman Jolly:

"Congressman David Jolly today is encouraging any city employees with information about the St. Petersburg sewage spills to come forward to his office for assistance with whistleblower protection. It is clear that the community will only benefit from greater transparency - transparency that may only be possible through increased employee protections."

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and Governor Rick Scott began an inquiry into the dumping after Hurricane Hermine, saying the FDOH would do additional testing of water along St. Petersburg. They also asked the city of St. Petersburg to share its test results with the state for independent review and analysis.

St. Petersburg said samples taken the day after Hermine showed satisfactory results. 

In response to the state's inquiry, Mayor Kriseman's office issued the following response: 

"The Department of Environmental Protection is already involved in this issue, and given that the governor is singling out St. Petersburg and ignoring the actions of governments across our region, we have to chalk this up to politics."

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