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Opinion

April 9, 2014

In Your Opinion: Background as important as credentials

On March 29, your paper published a commentary by Mike Zagata that was pro-Constitution Pipeline. Mr. Zagata lists himself as a “former state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner.”

Because your readers might tend to give more weight to what such a former state official says on the subject, it is important to examine these credentials more closely. As a trial lawyer with more than 50 years experience, admitted to the New York and California bars, I always look into the background of people giving opinions. I therefore submit the following excerpts from an article from the archives of the New York Times from Dec. 11, 1996:

“In his 22 months as New York State’s top environmental official, Michael D. Zagata had countless troubles. Private environmental groups and political opponents attacked him again and again for what they saw as a series of actions favoring industry over the environment.

“Almost always, when Mr. Zagata was in the news, it was bad news for a governor seeking to position himself as an environmental leader.

“On policy issues, Mr. Zagata had drawn fire early and often, with private environmental groups attacking him for cutting the department’s legal staff, relaxing regulations at the behest of lobbyists for pesticide makers, and supplanting fines for industrial polluters with negotiated tax-deductible settlements.

“But overall, the criticism seemed to outweigh the plaudits. Richard A. Brodsky, chairman of the State Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, said the commissioner’s arrival and departure constituted ‘‘a small tragedy.’

“‘The guy was put in to do a job, did what he was told, blundered personally, became a political liability and then was jettisoned,’’ Mr. Brodsky said.’”

Readers, judge for yourselves.

Irwin Waldman

West Davenport

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