Home > Uncategorized > State Ethics Commission Asks DEP To Conduct Ethics Review Of Corporate Drinking Water Quality Institute Appointee

State Ethics Commission Asks DEP To Conduct Ethics Review Of Corporate Drinking Water Quality Institute Appointee

In what may be a record in rapid response, the State Ethics Commission responded to our July 1, 2016 request for an ethics review of the role of a corporate scientist on the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI).  (see:

We are seeking, at a minimum, clear ethical standards, public disclosure, and recusal requirements.

Our request noted that DEP is required to adopt and enforce an Ethics policy that complies with State Ethics law – and we also noted more restrictive science oriented ethics standards for members of DEP’s Science Advisory Board (SAB).

The Ethics Commission referred the matter to DEP and requested that they conduct a review.

In an email to me earlier today, the Commission wrote:

Mr. Wolfe:

The Commission received your request below.  In response, the Commission has requested that the Ethics Liaison Officer for the Department of Environmental Protection review the circumstances you described to ensure that any necessary recusals are put in place and that any other necessary steps are taken to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of any conflicts.  Thank you.

I am very pleasantly surprised by the Commission’s rapid and appropriate response.

The issue now shifts to the DEP.

Last I recall, DEP’s Ethics Officer was a longtime career DEP lawyer named Cathy Tormey. I’ve worked with Ms. Tormey and found her a dedicated professional and public servant.

However, given the high profile of this issue (e.g. an appointee of the NJ Senate President with a high powered corporate background, and the DWQI and PFOA and Dupont issues), I fear that the ethics review will be done at a higher level by a political DEP employee – or elsewhere, perhaps in the Governor or AG’s Office.

Full disclosure: I had one previous personal involvement with the DEP Ethics Officer as a DEP employee and a local School Board member in North Hanover. In that case, I was forced to read a public statement during a public hearing of the School Board stating that I was required to recuse from any discussion, deliberations, or voting on any issue involving the DEP.

That ethics review also was incredibly rapid – after I raised a firestorm by publicly disclosing lead contamination in drinking water fountains in elementary schools on McGuire Air Force base, I had the Ethics Order on my desk when I arrived to work at DEP the next day!!

One would think a chemical industry hired gun deliberating on the science behind drinking water standards would be a far more serious ethics issue than what I was Ordered to recuse from.

We believe that the chemical industry appointee should simply resign.

Regardless, the issue is subject to OPRA and DEP must make some kind of decision on the matter.

We are watching and will keep you posted.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.