Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stepp 'Blasts' Her Agency, Then Blasts Reporter For Writing That

[first posted, 9:09 Wednesday, 4/25, then updated] For Cathy Stepp, firing away at the DNR must have seemed like the good old days  - - except that now Scott Walker had put her in charge of the agency and she needed to engage in some damage control.

After all, there was a serious situation: an infected deer carcass was left in the woods, the head forgotten for months in a shed freezer and lab work on what was found to be a positive test for chronic wasting disease was delayed.

 [Update: The Journal Sentinel posted a thorough story late Wednesday night, here.

Speaking Wednesday at the Natural Resources Board meeting, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp called the time lapse "alarming."]
So Stepp tried Wednesday afternoon to explain, and complain about, this earlier story and headline and lede - - 
  - - Wis. DNR leader blasts agency for CWD test delay TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press: The state Department of Natural Resources' leader blasted her agency Wednesday for mishandling a northwestern Wisconsin deer infected with chronic wasting disease, saying the missteps threaten public confidence in the agency.
- - with this email to the entire agency:
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Subject: AP article on CWD deer discussion at the Board meeting today\\
Dear Colleagues:
I want to communicate with you directly about an Associated Press article’s portrayal of a discussion about the agency’s handling of the Washburn County CWD positive deer at today’s Natural Resources Board meeting in Madison. 
In short, it wasn’t accurate. 
I did not “blast” the agency staff and certainly did not “chastise” Wildlife Management Director Tom Hauge in front of the board.
Please know that the Natural Resources Board members and staff present in the meeting were shocked at the inflammatory headline and skewed interpretation of my acknowledgement that we could have done a better job.
The current political climate creates challenges for us to effectively communicate with staff.  Inflammatory news media articles make it harder.  To insinuate that I “chastised” Tom Hauge and his wildlife team is outrageous.
I clarified my morning remarks this afternoon in Secretary’s matters and had the reporter invited back so he could hear our reaction.  I stated – again – how proud I am of the men and women who make up the Wisconsin DNR. 
In short, here’s what caused the flap:  I acknowledged our internal tracking of samples and communication broke down on the Washburn County CWD deer.  Honestly, it took too long to get the sample into the lab. 
As secretary the buck stops with me and I take full responsibility.  To not identify, acknowledge and transparently address missteps would be irresponsible.
There are members of the public that have questioned the long interval between taking the sample and testing.  My admittance that we could have done better in no way was intended to denigrate our DNR staff – and they know it.
This agency has too much integrity to ignore or try to hide this under the rug. We learned from our mistake and are developing a more robust tracking system.
DNR staff is passionate about wildlife health and doesn't want delays to happen again. I am proud of the way we are dealing with this by taking responsibility and learning from it, and I applaud the wildlife staff for every day doing the best possible job for the people of this state.   
These are challenging times for the wildlife team.  I respect and appreciate the difficulty they are experiencing during Dr. Kroll’s review of deer management and with the discovery of CWD in the northwest. They have been a model of cooperation and openness with Dr. Kroll.  That speaks volumes. 
I will continue to sing the praises of our agency – something that seems long overdue.  And I will accept responsibility when we could have done better.
It is a privilege to serve as secretary of this great agency.  You all make me proud on a daily basis.
Cathy Stepp


Anonymous said...

No way Cathy Stepp wrote that. I am guessing JD Smith had a hand.

Anonymous said...

Why should we expect anything different? She was appointed to her job specifically because she hated the DNR, and apparently she still does. Based on her quote from the meeting, I would call it entirely fair for the reporter and headline writer to say she "blasted" her staff. Like hires like -- Scott Walker is a know-it-all and a bully, and so is Stepp. It is an absolute crime that as heads of the agency we have two people (Stepp and deputy Matt Moroney) who have no natural resources experience, a history of antipathy toward the DNR, and a "business first" mentality. With them it's always "We have to serve business while still protecting the environment. Notice it is NEVER the other way around. Business does what it wants and if somehow in the bargain the environment gets protected, that's OK too.

JB said...

"This was really unfortunate. The timing really calls the department into question," Stepp said. "People have to have confidence in this agency and when you allow holes big enough to drive a truck through it doesn't help build that trust. ... this can never happen again."

This is the quotation from the AP article by Todd Richmond. I'd say that qualifies as "blasting."

And the make nice words at the end of the letter -- I'll just keep praising this agency, blah, blah, blah -- are laughable.

Fortunately (fingers crossed) we won't have Stepp to kick around much longer. How about this? If Barrett is governor, Falk can run the DNR.

Boxer said...

How about this? When Falk becomes governor, Barrett can run Milwaukee. And we should get a freakin' scientist to run the DNR. Someone other than this freak show of charlatans and wannabes who doesn't believe that all of our environmental problems will be solved by the rapture and (in the words of Tina Fey and Seth Meyers), doesn't believe that "Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church."

Max B said...

I agree with Stepp on one thing in her letter: it does seem long overdue for her to sing the praises of [the] agency.