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APNewsBreak: Resigning OEPA official leaves job

Julie Carr Smyth, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A veteran Ohio environmental regulator fighting what he says was a forced resignation by the administration of Republican Gov. John Kasich left state service Friday.

George Elmaraghy told The Associated Press he was escorted from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's headquarters half a day early on his last day because the agency's director didn't want to leave him unsupervised. He said Director Scott Nally personally walked him out at noon.

"The director had a meeting outside the office and they had to leave at 12 o'clock and he was not comfortable with leaving me in the building while he is out," Elmaraghy said.

A message was left with the agency seeking comment.

Elmaraghy wrote an email widely distributed in August alleging pressure from the coal industry was at play in a request for his resignation. He served 39 years at the Ohio EPA, most recently as head of its Division of Surface Water. He said the division faced "considerable pressure" this year to accommodate industry demands.

The email said coal companies sought permits that Elmaraghy indicated would have violated state and federal laws and harmed Ohio's streams and wetlands.

Both the administration and the agency have declined to discuss the personnel side of Elmaraghy's case, but they have defended the state's water permitting process.

After his situation drew national attention last month, Elmaraghy told Nally he wanted to reverse the resignation notice he'd submitted under pressure. Nally said it had already been accepted and wouldn't be reversed.

Elmaraghy said he's hired an attorney and is weighing his legal options.