Pete Grannis, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, was fired effective immediately Thursday in the wake of an agency memo that was critical of layoffs planned at the agency.
Jessica Bassett, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Paterson, confirmed the firing of Grannis, a former state assemblyman from Manhattan who has led the agency since 2007. She declined further comment.
In a telephone interview Thursday night with Gannett Albany’s Bureau, Grannis said he was contacted Wednesday by Paterson’s top deputy Lawrence Schwartz and was asked for his resignation because of the memo becoming public.
But Grannis said he decided Thursday that he would not resign and didn’t release the memo to the media, which has reported on its details this week. Then he was fired.
“I’m disappointed, and I think it’s because of the memo that we provided to the director of the state budget office, Bob Megna, which outlined the consequences and downside of further budget cuts at DEC,” Grannis said.
Grannis called his terminated “unwarranted.”
In the unsigned, undated memo, a copy of which was obtained Thursday by the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton, the DEC warns of service and program cuts because of the layoffs, including a slowdown in natural-gas development in New York.
The DEC has been instructed by Paterson’s office to cut 209 workers — about 6.6 percent of its current staff — by year’s end, which “may result in potential serious risks to human health and safety and environmental quality,” the agency wrote in the memo.
The DEC had 3,775 full-time employees in April 2008. If the staff cuts go through, it will have lost 849 full-time employees since then.
“In contrast to the past, we no longer have a general capacity for incremental reductions,” the memo reads. “All the meat has been stripped from the bones and some of the bones have disappeared.”
Grannis’ termination was ripped by environmental groups, who ironically were honoring him at an event Thursday in Saratoga County.
“We think it’s deplorable,” said Dereth Glance, executive program director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “He was telling the truth. The memo details the realities of what state the Department of Environmental Conservation is currently in, and what additional cuts would do to the agency.”