EPA staff bused to listen to Kasich


Promises to trim state spending appear to be taking a back seat today with the state picking up the tab
to bus up to 1,200 Ohio EPA workers to Columbus to hear from Gov. John Kasich.
An estimated 90 of the 140 employees at the EPA district office in Bowling Green headed down to the
capital on a chartered bus and in state vehicles to meet with the governor and new Ohio EPA Director
Scott Nally.
"It’s not something we do very often," said Heidi Griesmer, an EPA spokesperson.
In fact, the former EPA director ended the meetings with the governor to cut travel expenses and lost
work time, according to Melissa Fazekas, the agency’s former communication director who was quoted in
today’s Columbus Dispatch.
"It’s two hours from Bowling Green and Twinsburg to Columbus," said Fazekas, now a spokeswoman
for the House Democratic Caucus. "You take that trip, you’re losing an entire work day."
With technological advancements, the meetings in recent years were instead videotaped and sent out to
employees in district offices throughout the state.
But Griesmer said Thursday that Kasich and Nally wanted the EPA employees to appear in person.
"They wanted to give people the opportunity to hear the information in person," she said.
And though today’s meeting will be videotaped, it is being held in a site in the Vern Riffe Center that
does not have live videoconference capabilities, Griesmer said.
Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesman, told the Dispatch that the meeting is closed to the public so that the
"governor can speak candidly." He said the governor plans to have similar talks with other
state agencies, although none has been scheduled.
Griesmer said Thursday that the decision to charter buses was made since that was less expensive than to
send all the employees to Columbus in state vehicles.
State Representative Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said this morning that while he wasn’t defending the
decision to send the employees to meet in person with Kasich, there may be a good reason for the
"I think with the new administration, it’s an important message to hear," Gardner said.
"I’m OK with this. I don’t know that I believe it’s necessary," but there may be a good reason
for the face-to-face meeting. "I think we should make judgments based on results."
Gardner said it is "ironic" that the governor is being criticized for the meeting expense, when
Kasich has repeatedly said he will be making severe cuts to deal with the state’s $8 billion budget
"Most people in government are concerned he will be too fiscally conservative," he said of the
new governor.
Throughout his campaign, Kasich criticized the EPA for delaying pollution-control permits required by
During a Jan. 14 news conference, the governor cited an air-pollution permit for Mingo Junction Energy
Center in Jefferson County that he said had "languished" for more than 20 months. He said
Nally was able to sign and issue the permit after making a few phone calls.

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