LeFleur responds to calls for his removal as ADEM director, controversy becomes an issue on the campaign trail

Shores of the Tennessee River at Decatur, Alabama (Photo: Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19)

The head of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is hitting back at the critics who are pushing for him to leave his post.

In a letter to the Alabama Environmental Management Commission, ADEM Director Lance LeFleur refuted claims that he had failed to maintain his department’s integrity. Those claims were made in a letter Black Warrior Riverkeeper sent to the Environmental Management Commission July 30. The letter was signed by 11 other groups, including north Alabama-based Tennessee Riverkeeper.

“The BWRK letter is riddled with numerous, demonstrably false, mean-spirited statements, and with unsupported, strident, negative innuendo, which impugn my good name and character and reflect negatively on the Department,” LeFleur wrote.

Part of the call for LeFleur to resign was tied to the public corruption trial of Birmingham attorney Joel Gilbert. In July, a jury convicted Gilbert and Drummond Company Vice President David Roberson of bribing former state Rep. Oliver Robinson to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s expansion of a Superfund site, and also to oppose prioritizing the site’s expensive cleanup.

LeFleur’s letter gave detailed, paragraph-by-paragraph responses to the Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s letter calling for his resignation or termination. In it, he stated ADEM’s opposition to the Superfund site was due to a set of desired conditions not being met, including a lack of state funding for cleanup and the EPA not identifying someone as responsible for the site cleanup.

LeFleur also addressed several other accusations, writing that there were no facts to support some of the groups’ claims.

“As the preceding shows, nearly every paragraph of the BWRK letter contains false, misleading, and unsupported statements,” LeFleur wrote in his closing.

You can read the entire response from LeFleur here.

The controversy is now becoming an issue on the campaign trail. On Wednesday, Democratic nominee for Governor Walt Maddox says something must be done.

“I’m certainly concerned. When I win, he will not be my ADEM director,” explains Maddox.

The Tuscaloosa mayor says he’s hopeful Governor Ivey will address the issue. Maddox adds that he doesn’t know all the inner workings of the department but doesn’t think LeFleur shouldn’t lead ADEM.

“From what I read on a cursory level. It’s too close to the people that he regulates,” says Maddox.

The Tuscaloosa Mayor says that not addressing the issue will allow corruption to continue to be commonplace in Montgomery.

We reached out to Governor Kay Ivey’s campaign for a response on the calls for LeFleur’s removal. While the campaign did not respond, the Governor’s office did.

“The governor does not appoint the Director of ADEM, although Governor Ivey does have several key upcoming appointments to the Alabama Environmental Management Commission, which selects the director. Governor Ivey will take into account all of the information and actions regarding this situation when making those appointments,” says Governor Ivey’s press secretary Daniel Sparkman.