Gov. John E. Baldacci made the right decision last week in determining that Dawn Gallagher no longer should lead the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Gallagher had been under fire for holding closed-door negotiating sessions with Rumford Paper Co. about the cleanup of the Androscoggin River.
She resigned last week at the governor’s request.
The meetings with Rumford Paper continued despite complaints from the press and from environmental watchdog agencies that the DEP was in violation of the state Freedom of Access Act.
That is now being investigated by the attorney general’s office.
Even if the attorney general finds that there was a technically legal basis for these meetings, the governor recognized that holding them was poor public policy.
These meetings did not “reflect my administration’s priority to always work for Maine’s people in the most accessible, consistent and open way possible,” Baldacci said.
The Rumford meetings were not the only cause for concern about Gallagher’s leadership at DEP. Environmentalists argue that the commissioner had become too cozy with businesses that pollute.
We welcome the governor’s strong statement about the importance of open government. His action in this case should make that commitment clear to every state agency.
Baldacci named Deputy Commissioner David Littell as acting head at the DEP. We expect Littell, and whoever is selected as the permanent commissioner, to keep the doors open to both sides, and the public, as the agency deals with both industry and environmental groups to protect Maine’s environment.