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Templeton to be reinstated as DNR director

Friday, October 16, 2009 | 6:24 p.m. CDT
Gov. Jay Nixon, left, and director of the Department of Natural Resources Mark Templeton talk to reporters about a new water quality enforcement effort for the Lake of the Ozarks Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009, near Osage Beach. Templeton will be reinstated to his position of department director after serving a two-week suspension for providing the governor's office with false information.

JEFFERSON CITY — Mark Templeton will be reinstated as the director of the Department of Natural Resources next week, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Friday.

Templeton has been serving a two-week suspension since providing the governor's office with false information regarding beach closures at Lake of the Ozarks .

"Mark has served a just punishment," Nixon said. "He has paid a price for the department's mistakes."

Nixon said Templeton inherited many of the issues within the state's natural resources department and deserved an opportunity to correct them.

Nixon also announced he will immediately withdraw his appointment of former DNR Deputy Director Joe Bindbeutel to the Administrative Hearing Commission.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, has been investigating these problems as the head of a Senate committee. Lager says his committee's work will not be affected by the governor's decision, but says the "public trust was violated" by Templeton's department.

"The public's health was put at risk, and that happened under the watchful eye of Mark Templeton," he said.

While Nixon said the state has had problems communicating potential health risks to the public in the past, the natural resources department has not lacked communication with Lager's committee. Lager, however, disagrees.

"If (Nixon) believes that DNR has been working with our committee, he has been misinformed," Lager said.

 

Former Deputy Director Bindbeutel took responsibility in September for the delayed release of tests showing high E. coli levels at Lake of the Ozarks.

The governor's appointment of Bindbeutel to the Administrative Hearing Commission was criticized in recent weeks, most notably from Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who said he would not support the appointment.

"While I continue to call Joe a friend, I cannot in good conscience support his pending nomination to the Administrative Hearing Commission without further consultation with the governor's office and reviewing the evidence being collected by the Senate committee examining these actions," Schaefer told The Associated Press earlier this month.

Schaefer could not be reached for further comment.

Nixon's major announcements marked an end to an internal investigation into the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  

The investigation uncovered 10 cases since 2007 in which beaches with high E. coli levels remained open to the public. The findings also reported 14 cases of wastewater discharges into the lake since 2005, none of which were reported to the public.  

"Reaching back a number of years, the department did not disclose results showing astronomical levels of bacteria being discharged into the Lake of the Ozarks," Nixon said. "Some of these were horrific instances."

Ultimately, Nixon admitted to communications failures within his office and the natural resources department and said the state was working to correct the issue.

"It's my responsibility," Nixon said. "I'm governor of the state of Missouri."


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