FRANKFORT — Carl Campbell, the state Commissioner of Natural Resources who was fired Tuesday without any explanation, said he “doesn’t have a clue why he was fired” and was only doing his job according to the law.
Campbell, 65, a non-merit or politically appointed employee, was not protected by the state merit system and was fired “without cause.” He was informed in person Tuesday by Holly McCoy-Johnson, director of the General Administrative and Program Support agency “that my services were no longer needed.” He was then given a one-paragraph letter signed by McCoy-Johnson saying he was being terminated immediately.
Campbell said he had planned to retire in March when he reached his 66th birthday.
Tom Fitzgerald, with the Kentucky Resources Council, said Campbell has “done a very good job under extremely difficult circumstances.” Asked if he knew of any reason Campbell’s performance might be considered unsatisfactory, Fitzgerald responded, “I’m assuming he’s been holding the line against companies who are politically active.”
Neither Dick Brown, spokesman for the Energy and Environment Cabinet, nor Gov. Steve Beshear’s spokeswoman Kerri Richardson had any comment on why Campbell was fired. Richardson would only say, “Personnel decisions are handled at the cabinet level.” Brown said deputy commissioner Larry Arnett will assume Campbell’s duties until a replacement is named.
Campbell oversaw surface mine reclamation, mine safety and licensing, including non-coal operations. He got generally good marks from both coal industry representatives and environmental interests.
Campbell said Wednesday he “always tried to be fair and consistent across the board. When I could I tried to help the coal companies get their permits and I tried to protect the environment. As far as I’m concerned, I did my job.”
In fact, Campbell said, he was scheduled Tuesday to travel to southeastern Kentucky to listen to concerns from Nally and Hamilton, a Bardstown-based coal company with surface operations in southeastern Kentucky under fire from environmental groups which have sued the company for alleged Clean Water Act violations. Campbell said the company thought the state was slow in releasing its reclamation performance bonds. He was fired just before he was scheduled to leave for that meeting.