Jefferson City, Mo. – Governor Jay Nixon has dismissed a long-time aide, but will reinstate the head of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in the ongoing controversy over the delayed release of E. coli test results from the Lake of the Ozarks.
Nixon has rescinded the appointment of Joe Bindbeutel to serve as an Administrative Law judge, in effect firing him, because he made the decision to delay the release of E. coli test results from the Lake of the Ozarks while serving as DNR Deputy Director.
"Joe Bindbeutel, as I believe he himself realizes, made an error in judgment regarding the release of Lake of the Ozarks sample results...because of that error, and the jeopardy in which it placed the public's trust, it is proper for me to withdraw his appointment to the Administrative Hearing Commission, effective immediately," Nixon said.
DNR Director Mark Templeton was suspended without pay on September 30th after Nixon says he learned that E. coli-contaminated beaches at the Lake of the Ozarks had remained open, despite being told they had been closed.
But Nixon told reporters at a press conference today that Templeton has been punished enough.
"He has had more than two weeks of unpaid leave, he has faced reproach from the public and the press...he has spoken at length about his own failings on this matter, (and) he has paid a price for the department's mistakes...in fact, he has paid a higher price than any DNR employee has ever paid," Nixon said.
Templeton's reinstatement will take effect next week.
State Senator Brad Lager (R, Savannah) chairs the Senate committee looking into the delayed E. coli report. He disagrees with the Democratic governor's decision to retain Templeton.
"Under (Templeton's) leadership...the public health and safety has been put at risk, and the public trust and integrity in the Department of Natural Resources has been tremendously violated," Lager said.
Lager has accused DNR officials of not cooperating with his Senate committee's inquiry, and said earlier this week that there appeared to be an "organized cover-up" in progress.
The Missouri Republican Party blasted Governor Nixon's actions, accusing him of "protecting his hand-picked personal staff ahead of protecting the public health of Missourians."