Paterson should have counted to 10 before firing Grannis
October 25, 2010
When it comes to respected members of the state's civil service and the Paterson administration, there is no one who outranks former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander Grannis. The man everyone calls "Pete" could not be a more solid citizen. It defies imagination that the governor and his flunkies have fired him. He is adored by most of the people who work for him as well as by most of the environmental groups in New York. His department is said to be in mourning.
Make no mistake about it: Pete Grannis is hardly a revolutionary. Where the governor is concerned, Pete Grannis has been a good soldier. He served for years in the New York state Legislature and he is not a guy who goes off half-cocked. He can be faulted for having carried the administration's water for a little too long on the Marcellus Shale drilling, but he has been honored again and again and again by the groups that count in the green movement. Grannis' department was slated for big things at the time Eliot Spitzer appointed him. Since then, it has been cut to the bone and the very talented young people who were last hired are now slated for elimination. This leaves the state and its citizens at tremendous risk. Do we really want to go back to the days in which some of the largest corporations and most misguided individuals were literally poisoning us?
After draconian budget cuts that would decimate his department and put the people of New York at risk, Grannis was told to write a memo outlining the implications and consequences. When that memo, intended for the governor's "second floor," was leaked to the press, Larry Schwartz, the secretary to the governor or the "enforcer," called Grannis and told him to resign. Pete refused and Schwartz called again, telling him that he was fired for insubordination, effective immediately.
I have always been willing to go the extra mile for David Paterson. I think he is smart and funny and in general, I have always believed that he has gotten a bum rap. But there is no overlooking the fact that Paterson is like a bad starter cylinder on a car. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the guy is on the money but every once in a while when someone turns his key, the starter gets to that one flaw on the cylinder the car won't start. That's when Paterson makes his big mistakes, and he's made some real doozies. The firing of Pete Grannis for "insubordination" and "poor performance" is one of those times.
Now the entire environmental community is up in arms. They are as riled up as Ferdinand the Bull was when he got stung in the rump by a bee. They are demanding that Paterson rehire the popular Grannis, and the governor's office is saying that isn't going to happen. It was a stupid move. What in the world could the governor have been thinking? He only has a few months to go in office. He is clearly trying to justify his record as governor. This is going on his "permanent record." He should have counted to 10, but he didn't — he shot from the hip but it turned out that the gun was pointed at his own foot.
As for Grannis, this may have actually helped him. It supports his reputation as an environmental hero and it may put a certain amount of pressure on incoming governor Cuomo to give him back the job. There have been rumors that Cuomo wanted his own team in place in the DEC, but this might actually help him gain the trust of the environmental community. But if he doesn't appoint Grannis, some not-for-profit environmental group will scoop him right up. This kind of risk goes with the territory. Another courageous and principled commissioner, Peter Berle, was discharged by Governor Carey in a "midnight massacre" when he wouldn't go along with that faux-Democrat's anti-environmental program.
Hey, the one who comes out looking bad here is Paterson, not Grannis.