published January 9, 2001
Few things annoy voters more
than seeing government kick around an employee intent on doing
people like them some good.
At issue is the fate of Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency site coordinator Paul Jayko, whom
the agency removed as chief investigator of the River Valley Schools
site near Marion on trumped up charges. The school grounds were once
a military chemical dump, which the school board appears not to have
known when it bought the property.
But the EPA knew toxins
were being dumped next to the main campus since 1978 and they told
no one, even in 1997 when state health officials found an unusually
high leukemia rate in the area. The truth was learned by angry
residents following paper trails.
Those residents trusted Mr.
Jayko, who kept them updated on his work, which the EPA appears not
to have liked. But the agency should have no secrets from
Mr. Jayko, declared a "whistleblower" under federal
law by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is seeking
a return to his old job of investigating possible links between the
soil contamination and the leukemia cases. Residents trust him more
than they trust his secretive EPA bosses.
The schools, nearly
40 years old, were built on acreage the military used to burn or
bury an assortment of chemical poisons. Mr. Jayko had urged the EPA
to be more aggressive in its investigation.
Now the U.S.
Labor Department has accused the EPA of violating seven
whistleblower statutes by reassigning him to its Bowling Green
Various appeals are available to the state Attorney
General’s office. She should sit on all of them. The EPA seems to
have a problem seeing itself as others see it, not an uncommon
affliction in government. It will lose what credibility remains to
it and to the Taft administration if it continues to make Mr. Jayko
State officials should be devising programs to
encourage and protect whistleblowers, and discourage concerted
efforts to do them in.