See also "DEP Getting Weaker Under Rick Scott" and "EPA Wants to Know if Herschel Vinyard Lied on His Resume"
The number-two man at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the son of lobbyists who represent clients with huge environmental stakes in Florida.
Jeff Littlejohn, deputy secretary for regulatory programs at DEP, is the son of Chuck Littlejohn, partner of the lobbying firm Littlejohn, Mann & Associates.
According to documents filed with the state's Lobbyist Registration Office, the firm's clients include Duda & Sons Inc., a development company that owns tens of thousands of acres of Florida land and whose mission is to "grow Christian faith and business integrity."
Littlejohn, Mann & Associates also lobbies on behalf of Washington-based Plum Creek Timber Co., which happens to own 520,000 acres worth of Florida timber.
Other clients of the firm, which both Littlejohn's mother and father work for, include the Florida Land Council, the Florida Ports Council, and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. All of these clients presumably have keen interests in the going-ons of the DEP.
Although this arrangement seems fraught with conflicts of interest, the DEP tells New Times that "employees whose immediate family relative is a lobbyist are required to report to the General Counsel the names of all such lobbyist's clients quarterly."
The DEP also says that employees with family ties to lobbyists "are prohibited from participating in any matter that would benefit them or their immediate family relatives... Deputy Secretary Littlejohn has filed the reports as required, and has done so in an unfailingly and timely manner."
Last month, the state's deputy chief inspector general opened an investigation into whether DEP brass, including Littlejohn, wrongly suspended the agency's top wetlands expert after she denied a permit for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Permit.
The agency has recently been picked apart by critics for going too easy on companies found in violation of various standards. An internal memo from Littlejohn showed him urging DEP officers to work with violators rather than take enforcement action.
Meanwhile, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, the man who appointed Littlejohn to the post, is under federal investigation for possibly fudging his past work experience to get the gig.