Remember when Mike Cox, a climate change adviser at the EPA, “quit” his job because of his disagreements with the Trump administration and sent in a “scathing letter of resignation?” As it turned out, Cox was actually retiring and had been eligible for retirement for some time.
Well, that pattern is continuing this week. Elizabeth Southerland, the director of the Office of Science and Technology in EPA’s Office of Water, unceremoniously quit today. Her claimed reasons included problems with the President’s proposed budget and how much was being allocated to the EPA. This is a rather frivilous reason because, as has been well documented in the past, whatever budget the President initially submits is little more than a wish list which rarely carries any weight. Congress controls the power of the purse, so her anger should be directed at them if the funding is not to her liking.
But as I indicated above, most of this appears to be a smokescreen anyway. Southerland is eligible for retirement and it would be surprising indeed if she chose to eschew her government employee retirement benefits in some sort of principled stand. Those benefits should be impressive to say the least, since they are always based on the time in service and best salary of the worker. In the case of Ms. Southerland, she was doing quite well for herself on the taxpayer dime. In 2016 she earned just shy of a quarter million dollars, and has done similarly well (if a bit short of that) in other years dating back to at least 2011 with the EPA when she earned $215K. Good work if you can get it to be sure, so if she elects to walk out the door and forfeit her benefits because of her moral revulsion to the agency providing them to her, expect to see a column here from me glorifying her for her remarkable moral fortitude. (But I’m not holding my breath.)
For their part, the EPA doesn’t seem to be buying the “retirement” story either, but are still wishing Ms. Southerland a gracious bon voyage. This is from EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.
“It’s hard to believe that Elizabeth Southerland is retiring because of a budget proposal and not because she’s eligible for her government pension. We wish Elizabeth Southerland the best in her retirement and the EPA will continue to re-focus on our core mission of protecting our air, land and water.”
A generous and gracious farewell. I, for one, will wait to see if Elizabeth proves me wrong and turns down all those sweet taxpayer funded retirement benefits. Perhaps she could donate them all to the federal government’s general fund to help out the less fortunate.