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Wise aide helped sister get DEP job


Publication: THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE
Published: Sunday, June 30, 2002
Page: P2B
Byline: Ken Ward Jr.

kward@wvgazette.com Toxicologist Dee Ann Staats had some help getting her job as the state Department of Environmental Protection's science adviser.

Her brother, Ed Staats, gave her resume to DEP Secretary Michael Callaghan, according to Dee Ann Staats' testimony in a deposition.

Ed Staats is chief operations officer for Gov. Bob Wise.

"He knew I was going through a divorce, and asked me if I would like to come home," Dee Ann Staats testified in her deposition.

In the last two weeks, Dee Ann Staats drew attention when she admitted that she destroyed DEP records concerning a study of Wood County water pollution.

Staats coordinated study of C8 Staats ran a DEP committee that studied C8, a toxic chemical released by DuPont's Washington Works Plant into drinking water supplies near the factory.

In early May, the agency announced that it would consider 150 parts per billion of the chemical safe. Previously, DuPont had considered no more than 1 part per billion of C8 safe. So the DEP action, coordinated by Staats, greatly increased the amount of C8 that would be allowed before DuPont would be forced to replace residents' water supplies.

On June 12, a circuit judge called Staats' document destruction "a crime," and issued an order blocking further destruction of records.

DEP lawyer Perry McDaniel insisted Staats did nothing wrong, and asked the state Supreme Court to overturn the Circuit Court injunction.

The controversy over Staats' actions focuses on testimony she gave in a June 6-7 deposition. Staats was questioned by lawyers for Parkersburg-area residents who are suing DuPont over the contaminated drinking water.

The 428-page deposition, filed with the state Supreme Court, revealed that Staats said she destroys all notes, e-mails and draft documents because of "habit, out of years of doing litigation." Staats testifies about her hiring In the two-day deposition, Staats also testified about the details of her hiring at DEP. In May 2001, Callaghan announced that he had hired Dee Ann Staats to fill the new position of DEP science adviser. At the time, then-DEP spokesman Andy Gallagher said in a news release, "DEP has suffered for years by the lack of a formal science adviser." Staats received a doctorate in toxicology from West Virginia University in 1987.

Before she joined DEP, Staats lived in California and ran her own consulting firm.

On her resume, Staats lists 11 civil lawsuits in which she provided expert testimony. In eight of those cases, Staats was hired by law firms that were defending oil, chemical and other companies, according to her resume. Those companies included Ashland Exploration Inc., Chevron USA, Texaco, Union Carbide, and Kerr McGee Corp., according to the resume.

In her deposition in the DuPont case, a lawyer for the citizens, Rob Billott, asked, "What led you to the job at the state?" Staats replied, "My brother Ed is the chief operating officer of West Virginia. He asked me if I would like to come home to West Virginia and work for the state. I said I would consider it.

"He gave my resume to the secretary of the environment, Michael Callaghan, told him to disregard the name at the top and look at the credentials and see if they had a place for that person," Dee Ann Staats said.

Later in the deposition, Billott asked Staats, "Just so we understand this correctly, your brother contacted you about a position in the state of West Virginia?" Staats replied, "I don't remember who called who, but just in a conversation among family. He knew I was going through a divorce, and asked me if I would like to come home." 'Three hours of them begging me to come' Staats said that Callaghan called her, and set up an interview. She met with Callaghan, and with Ken Ellison, chief of the DEP Office of Environmental Remediation.

"They just said they wanted me, and asked me if I would come," Dee Ann Staats said. "Basically, it was three hours of them begging me to come." Staats said that the science adviser position was created for her.

"I think they had a lower-level environmental toxicologist position already, but there was no way I would have taken that low amount of money," she said. "So they were trying to ... get that upgraded so that they could afford the lowest dollar amount that I would come for." Staats was asked if, "there was a point in time where you were actually offered a specific job of some sort by the state?" She responded, "They eventually sent me an offer letter." Last week, no one at DEP was able to locate a copy of that letter.

Dee Ann Staats did not return a phone call.

When she was hired, DEP said that Staats was making $75,000 a year.

Today, she makes $75,756. Like all state employees, she will receive an $806 per year raise effective July 1, said DEP spokeswoman Jessica Welsh.

Last week, Callaghan said that hiring Staats was Ellison's idea. "He's always wanted to get that kind of scientific expertise," Callaghan said.

Callaghan said that he didn't recall other specifics about Staats' hiring, but that her brother was not involved.

"Did I know that her brother was Ed Staats? Yes. But I don't think it came through that channel," Callaghan said.

After being read portions of Dee Ann Staats' testimony, Callaghan said, "I'm not going to say that didn't happen.

"I'm not going to dispute that that happened," he continued. "Could it have come through Ed to me to Ken? Sure." Callaghan said there's nothing wrong with a gubernatorial aide referring his sister to the DEP secretary for a job.

"I don't see anything wrong with that, if she's a good, qualified person," Callaghan said. "Do you know how many resumes I get every day like that?" Callaghan said he did not seek other applicants or interview anyone else for the science adviser job. He said the job was not a Civil Service post, so that wasn't required.

"I felt very fortunate to have somebody of her quality come back to West Virginia and serve," Callaghan said. "Her qualifications speak for themselves. I was very happy to get her to come back to West Virginia." To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.

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