EPA Wants to Know if Herschel Vinyard, Secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, Lied on His Resume

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating whether Herschel Vinyard, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, fabricated part of his resume and has asked Vinyard's counsel to clarify various discrepancies surrounding his employment history.

It seems like a lose-lose situation for Vinyard, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Rick Scott in January 2011.  

If Vinyard's resume is up to snuff, then he might be in violation of conflict-of-interest clauses within the federal Clean Water Act. If he fudged his past work experience, then he made false statements to a federal agency, which is a crime. 

The fiasco started in 2011, when the environmental groups PEER and the Florida Clean Water Network contacted the EPA and asserted that Vinyard's appointment violated a section of the Clean Water Act that bars the "appointment of any state decision-maker on pollution discharge permits in federal quality water programs who has during the previous two years received a significant portion of his income directly or indirectly from permit holders or applicants of a permit."

The groups pointed out that Vinyard had worked for BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards and was the chairman of the Shipbuilders Council of America, an industry group that represents more than 100 companies. 

The resume Vinyard submitted for the DEP post, which can be found here, shows that he was director of business operations at the unit of BAE Systems where he "counseled the company on major environmental permitting decisions," among other duties. 

When the EPA pursued this point, Thomas Beason, general counsel for DEP who's handling the matter on behalf of Vinyard, said Vinyard only worked for BAE for two weeks and that he did not receive a significant amount of income from the company. Beason said that Vinyard didn't make money as chair of the Shipbuilders Council.  He also said that the BAE unit Vinyard worked for and other companies listed on his resume didn't hold the permits in question. 

"In order to get around the requirements of the Clean Water Act, he's saying he worked for another company, a company he didn't list on his resume," Jerry Phillips, director of PEER's Florida chapter, tells New Times. "He can't have it both ways. He's either lying to the governor and legislature, or he's lying to the EPA."

On a questionnaire Vinyard submitted to Governor Scott's office as part of the application process,  Vinyard listed BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards -- formerly known as Atlantic Marine Shipyards -- as his primary employer from 1999 through 2011. 

Furthermore, Vinyard's experience at BAE was touted by Governor Scott when announcing the appointment. In this 2011 press release from the governor's office, Scott praised the legal services Vinyard provided to BAE, the world's second-largest defense contractor. 

An April 27 letter from the EPA asked Beason to explain these apparent discrepancies, as well as provide information on all the subsidiaries of the companies that Vinyard worked for. The agency also asked Beason to clarify how BAE's acquisition of Atlantic Marine affected Vinyard's employment status. 

PEER says that the BAE unit and/or Atlantic Marine held national pollutant discharge elimination system permits in the two years preceding Vinyard's appointment. 

"Now Vinyard is denying that he worked for the company that he once claimed gave him the experience to be secretary of DEP," Phillips says. "He's saying through his attorney that he didn't work there. It's a shell game."

The EPA didn't return calls asking for comment. Vinyard's attorney was unavailable for comment. 

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