Florida officials continue to deny a recent Florida Center for Investigative Reporting story (FCIR) indicating there is a ban on referring to "climate change" at state agencies.
But a group has now filed a formal complaint with the governor's office on behalf of an official saying he was unjustly reprimanded for, among other things, including the words climate change in a summary of a meeting.
Barton Bibler is currently Land Management Plan Coordinator in the Division of State Lands, a unit of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. That's the agency the reported has the de facto ban.
According to a reprimand Bibler received on March 4, Bibler submitted a summary of a coastal managers meeting that appeared to indicate that "climate change" had been on the meeting's formal agenda, which the department says it was not, and he was asked to revise his summary.
So, according to the reprimand, Bibler responded by emailing a document with the words "Keystone Pipeline" with a red circle and cross through it.
Bibler's complaint, filed on his behalf by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that works with government workers, gives his side of the story.
When it was his turn to speak at the meeting, Bibler updated the group on his unit's activities, and then "expressed his opinion that the Keystone XL Pipeline, if built, would further jeopardize the stability of our climate, which would also negatively impact the State of Florida."
At this point, the forum’s moderator said she was concerned that Bibler’s remarks about the pipeline could be interpreted as the department's official opposition, and that it could jeopardize the ability to hold future Coastal Management Forum conference calls.
Bibler said his statements were not representative of the department's.
Afterward, Bibler provided a summary of the meeting that included references to discussions of climate change and sea level rise, but did not mention the Keystone XL Pipeline.
His supervisors responded by saying he made it seem like climate change had been on the meeting's official agenda, when it had not. So Bibler revised his document by striking the word "Agenda" from his summary and replacing it with "Meeting Summary (Partial),” while leaving the remainder of his summary as originally written. Here's the document:
"These issues that were, in fact, raised in the meeting," PEER says.
Here's what happened next, they say:
"When he emailed the revised summary back to his supervisor he attached to the email a symbol that simply means the equivalent of 'Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.' This was not acceptable either, at which point he was asked to provide yet another summary of the meeting – supposedly one that was thoroughly devoid of any hot button issues, especially explicit references to climate change. That summary was never provided because it would have been untrue."
For PEER, "it is apparent that the true concern was whether or not (the supervisor) could face repercussions if a public record was allowed to show that that she held a meeting with an agenda that included climate change as a topic, especially if there was any discussion of the Keystone XL Pipeline," they write.
"Fearing those repercussions, management twice embarked upon the task of trying to force Mr. Bibler to sanitize his summary so that no mention of climate change or the Keystone XL Pipeline was included."
The incident resulted in Bibler recieving a letter of reprimand. The department also ordered him to take two days leave, and further "told him not to return until he had medical clearance of his fitness for duty."
Bibler is asking for an investigation of the incident under the state's whistleblower act. A PEER official said he is not doing interviews.
The department did not respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.