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WVDEP: ‘No complaints filed’ of shabbily dressed inspectors


Charleston Gazestte-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While Gov. Jim Justice has at least twice blasted the way he says West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection inspectors dress on the job, no one else seems to be too concerned about the issue.

The DEP has confirmed that it has not received any complaints from anyone about whether agency inspectors working in the field were dressed inappropriately.

“No complaints have been filed,” said DEP inspector Jake Glance, in response to a Gazette-Mail Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents about problems with inspector dress codes or uniforms.

Despite Justice’s high-profile criticism of DEP inspector clothing, the only agency-wide change in policy that’s been announced was a reduction in the uniform allowance that inspectors receive, according to documents provided by the DEP as part of its response to that public-records request.

During his State of the State address on Feb. 8, Justice promised that West Virginia regulators would stop saying “no” to business and industry and singled out for harsh criticism DEP inspectors the governor alleged were wearing “T-shirts and old jeans” and “not having shaved in forever.”

“Listen, I think they ought to look like something,” the governor said, to loud applause from the joint legislative session attending his speech. “And they will look like something or we’ll have them out tending to Grizzly Adams.”

A week later, during a speech before the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, Justice again singled out DEP inspectors for criticism.

“First of all, they don’t need to show up in a tank top and flip-flops on and haven’t shaved in three months and look at you and say, ‘By God, you’re not doing that,’” Justice said.

“They can at least look like something, and the first words out of their mouth can be, ‘Some way, somehow, if this is what you’re wanting to do, we’re going to try to help you, within the constraints of the law,’ ” the governor said.

Asked later if his comments about DEP inspectors’ manner of dress were an observation from personal experience, Justice said, “Absolutely. I’ve seen inspectors dressed very, very poorly, and it’s not good. Now I don’t see that every day, but we should never see that. That’s all there is to it. We should never see that.”

If DEP inspectors showed up at one of Justice’s coal mines or other businesses dressed inappropriately, though, Justice didn’t complain about it, at least not in the past five years. Glance said the DEP has no such complaints from Justice or his companies.

In fact, when the Gazette-Mail asked for records of any complaints filed about inspector dress by any companies, citizens or other agency employees, Glance responded to the FOIA request with an email message that said, “There have been no complaints filed with [the] DEP by businesses, industry, citizens, or other DEP employees.”

DEP officials also provided a copy of the agency’s uniform policy, but said the document is undergoing revisions to take into account new DEP Secretary Austin Caperton’s decision to cut the initial uniform allowance that inspectors receive. Decreasing that uniform allowance was part of a series of cost-cutting moves Caperton instituted without publicly announcing them.

That change in the uniform allowance was the only DEP-wide policy change that’s been made regarding inspector dress codes, according to Glance’s email.

However, the DEP Division of Mining and Reclamation’s Logan office did recently send out an email memo to remind inspectors of the agency dress code. That email also told inspectors they could no longer wear DEP polo shirts in the field. A memo to all DMR offices has not yet been sent, Glance said.

“Effective immediately, please be advised that when representing DMR outside of your assigned office you will be required to wear uniform(s) appropriate for interactions with the public and industry,” the email said. “Begin wearing shirts (both long sleeve and short sleeve) that have an agency ‘patch.’ ”

Glance indicated that this email meant inspectors must wear button-up uniform shirts when working in the field. “Polo shirts inside the office only,” the agency email said.

That email regarding polo shirts, though, was not sent out until Feb. 22. That was more than a week after Justice’s second speech on the issue, and more than a week after the Gazette-Mail filed its public-records request for copies of any complaints about inspector dress and for any new DEP uniform policies.

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