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U.S. SUGAR CALLS FOR SPECIAL PROSECUTOR TO PROBE U.S ATTORNEY'S OFFICE ROLE IN EVERGLADES LAWSUIT

 CLEWISTON, Fla., Feb. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- United States Sugar Corporation today asked President Clinton to consider appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the conduct of the Miami U.S. Attorney's office in the four-year old Everglades lawsuit.
 "The handling of this case by the U.S. Attorney's staff has been rife with irregularities that together represent a major abuse of power," said Robert H. Buker, senior vice president, on behalf of the company. The letter emphasized the call was not for an investigation of U.S. Atty. Robert Martinez, who has recused himself from the case, but of a team headed by Asst. U.S. Atty. Susan Ponzoli.
 In this latest development in what some are calling the "Gladesgate" scandal, the letter to the President detailed numerous irregularities, highlighting the detainment, one week ago, of Duke University Wetlands Center scientists at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve in Palm Beach County and confiscation of their equipment.
 While the U.S. Attorney's office was a party to the settlement agreement with the State to resolve allegations that farm water runoff was damaging the Everglades, the U.S. Attorney's office has since dictated terms of the state's regulatory proceedings at the South Florida Water Management District, "threatening renewed legal action whenever state officials didn't follow their lead."
 The letter cited a number of irregularities:
 1 -- The case was brought without the approval of any other federal agency, a procedure required of all Federal Justice Department actions.
 2 -- The U.S. Attorney's staff required state officials to violate Florida's public records laws and government in the sunshine laws, hiding documents supporting the settlement agreement from public view.
 3 -- Federal attorneys threatened a Smithsonian Institution scientist with prosecution if he tested Everglades cleanup methods.
 4 -- The U.S. Attorney's office refused to allow the National Academy of Sciences to be brought in to evaluate the scientific issues in the dispute.
 5 -- The U.S. Attorney's staff has disrupted at every turn efforts to scientifically evaluate Everglades problems, inhibiting research and hindering access to sample and evaluate data.
 Of the request for a special prosecutor, the letter added, it "is not made lightly. It is unusual, even unprecedented. But the pending prosecution of the Duke scientists for taking water samples suggests an office drunk with the arrogance of power. The Justice Department itself is not the right agency to examine abuses that may have received at least silent assent from supervisors in Washington. federal rules, if not Federal laws, may have been violated. Certainly, there is an alarming appearance of impropriety."
 Following is the letter to President Clinton from Robert H. Baker Jr., secretary and senior vice president, corporate affairs, U.S. Sugar Corporation:
 The President
 The White House
 Washington D.C. 20500
 Feb. 19, 1993
 Dear Mr. President:
 On behalf of farmers on the southern shore of Florida's Lake
 Okeechobee, I am writing to ask you to have the Attorney General
 look into appointing a special prosecutor to investigate members of
 the Miami U.S. Attorney's office.
 The independent counsel statute was designed to insure full
 prosecution of official abuses in cases that the Justice Department
 could not be expected to handle impartially. These are precisely
 the circumstances here.
 Let me be clear, I am not asking for investigation of U.S.
 Attorney Martinez, who has recused himself from the case in
 question, but of a team on his staff headed by Assistant U.S.
 Attorney Ponzoli.
 Three years ago, the Miami U.S. Attorney's office sued the State
 of Florida, contending that water flowing into Federal Everglades
 lands (Everglades National Park and the Loxahatchee Wildlife
 Preserve) was polluted. At issue was phosphorus in water, which was
 said to be upsetting the balance of the ecosystem in violation of a
 Federal contract with the State. Although the State was the named
 defendant, the suit actually targeted the farmers south of Lake
 Okeechobee, whose runoff was said to be the problem. A state-
 federal settlement reached a year-and-a-half ago prescribed water
 quality standards (50 part per billion of phosphorus for water
 leaving the farm region or twice as clean as rain) and a clean-up
 method (58 square miles of filter marshes built on farmland). At
 the insistence of the U.S. Attorney's office, the farmers were
 excluded both from participation in the case and the negotiations
 that produced this agreement.
 Since then, the U.S. Attorney's office has taken an active role
 in state regulatory proceedings, threatening renewed legal action
 whenever state officials didn't follow their lead. The office has
 insisted that the farmers should pay most or all of the $400 million
 price of the cleanup, a bill that will kill local agriculture and
 the nearly 40,000 jobs that depend on it.
 The handling of this case by the U.S. Attorney's staff has been
 rife with irregularities that together represent a major abuse of
 power:
 1. The case was brought without the approval of any other
 federal agency. Federal rules of procedure require that the agency
 that is party to a contract determine when its contract has been
 violated, then ask the U.S. Attorney to act. The reason: to
 prevent prosecutors from using their interpretation of contracts as
 a super-regulatory tool, gathering excessive power in one place.
 But in direct violation of these rules, the Miami U.S. Attorney's
 staff had no government client when suit was initiated. Post hoc
 approval was obtained much later after the issue of agency procedure
 was publicly raised.
 2. As part of a final agreement with that State (an agreement
 governed by state rather than Federal law) the U.S. Attorney's staff
 has required state officials to violate Florida's public records act
 and government in the sunshine law. They have aggressively demanded
 that the state not reveal the science underlying the pact.
 Recently, a Florida judge has released state officials from this
 requirement and made these documents public (revealing many
 political but no scientific reasons for the agreement).
 3. Four boxes of documents in the U.S. Attorney office's hands
 have still not been opened to public scrutiny. In short, the U.S.
 Attorney's office claimed the status of a private landowner in
 bringing the case under the state statutes but sovereign immunity in
 order to raise itself above the reach of state law when convenient,
 another abuse of power.
 4. The staff has fought all independent attempts to determine
 the scientific grounding of the Everglades Settlement Agreement. It
 has barred outside researchers from testing the actual water quality
 and the relation of changes of wildlife to phosphorus in Park and
 Refuge waters. Duke University Wetlands Center scientists under
 contract to the Everglades Agricultural Area Environmental
 Protection District have been threatened with arrest. Last week
 while collecting water samples in an area thick with fishermen and
 boaters, and while standing on a state-owned structure, Duke
 biologists found themselves confronted with Federal agents, who
 confiscated their equipment. The Miami U.S. Attorney's office has
 since announced that it will prosecute, although the law in question
 is unclear. As the lead scientist in the team later told Florida
 press, "I don't know why they won't let us there. I don't know if
 they're afraid of what we're going to find."
 Other of the office's actions to suppress free inquiry in this
 case include:
 1. Threatened a Smithsonian Institute scientist with
 prosecution if he tested the efficacy of the cleanup methods the
 U.S. Attorney's staff favors. The Smithsonian maintains a large
 physical model of the Everglades for precisely the purpose of
 conducting experiments on how to protect this national treasure.
 2. Blocked enlistment of the National Academy of Sciences for
 evaluating the scientific issues in dispute.
 3. Appeared at every relevant state agency meeting and hearing
 to pressure the South Florida Water Management District and the
 Florida Department of Environmental Resources to ignore their own
 engineers' reports that the cleanup methods would not work as
 advertised and adopt regulations enforcing the plan.
 Finally, the staff has a pattern of attempting to intimidate its
 critics. For example, their recent Everglades-case subpoenas of
 this private company's records called for our individual officers'
 tax returns, which have nothing to do with the Everglades.
 Over the past four years, we have witnessed a Federal regional
 office circumventing normal democratic and legal procedures to
 hijack a state regulatory process, suppress honest science and free
 discussion and impose a program that could cost tens of thousands of
 jobs.
 This request is not made lightly. It is unusual, even
 unprecedented. But the pending prosecution of the Duke scientists
 for taking water samples suggests an office drunk with the arrogance
 of power. The Justice Department itself is not the right agency to
 examine abuses that may have received at least silent assent from
 supervisors in Washington. Federal rules, if not Federal laws, may
 have been violated. Certainly, there is an alarming appearance of
 extreme impropriety.
 Please ask the Attorney General to launch an investigation and
 appoint a special prosecutor to insure the integrity of the inquiry.
 -0- 2/20/93
 /CONTACT: Robert Buker of U.S. Sugar Corporation, 813-983-8121, ext. 2110/


CO: U.S. Sugar Corporation ST: Florida IN: SU:

PS-MA -- NYSA004 -- 8682 02/20/93 15:03 EST
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