EPA struggling with transparency too–an email faux pas

July 30, 2008

Here’s a dilemma: one of the cardinal rules of preparing an organization for a crisis is to train the media spokesperson and train those who are not the spokespeople to “refer and defer” as my friend Chuck Wolf explains.

But what would the media do with a “secret copy” of an email that says to an employee “you are not to talk to a reporter but instead refer the reporter to an appropriate spokesperson.” Why that reporter is going to scream: COVER-UP!

That’s what seems to me behind this story from the San Francisco Chronicle about the EPA and an email sent to managers telling them to remind their employees to not talk to investigators. Now, I am suspecting there is a perfectly good rationale for this–staff authorized by management should be the ones to engage at that level. However, that is not how this story presents it and it looks very much like the EPA top management is trying to control the investigation process and hide something.

So, the “secret email” becomes big news. I have no idea what might be under investigation. I don’t really care. As a reader of this story all I take away is that the EPA–a government agency no less–is trying to hide something from the government. E gads–let’s find out what they are hiding!

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