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Lonice Barrett 

For asking two clueless politicos to "protect' the coast

On June 30, Lonice Barrett, commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources, nominated two people with absolutely no conservation or environmental experience to the Coastal Marshes Protection Committee, a five-member group that denies and approves construction permits for waterfront developments, marinas and docks.

Barrett's picks -- Leslie Davisson Mattingly and Richard Eckburg -- have never even held jobs that had anything to do with coastal issues, according to the resumes Barrett provided to the DNR board, which votes to approve coastal committee appointees.

Some DNR board members -- Sally Bethea and Jim Butler, specifically -- were straight-up ticked off about Barrett's choices. They were just as upset that Barrett was asking for their approval while giving them minimal information and one meeting's worth of discussion before the vote.

"There's a tacit understanding on this board that if things are being done quickly and secretly, it's to help developers," Butler told Creative Loafing. "Most of the board members are all for that, so they don't ask any questions."

Guess what Barrett said in defense of Eckburg when a DNR board member questioned his qualifications.

Barrett answered that Eckburg was indeed qualified for the committee because he lives on a marsh!

Butler, Bethea, and two other board members voted against Barrett's two nominations. But Eckburg and Mattingly got nine votes of approval.

If Eckburg and Mattingly don't have any experience that qualifies them for the coastal protection committee, why in the hell did Barrett choose them?

Mattingly, a real estate lawyer based on St. Simons Island, is married to former U.S. Sen. Mack Mattingly. She also was tapped by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2003 and President George W. Bush in 2001 to serve on their judicial nominating committees.

Eckburg is also a well-connected conservative, which must be Barrett's favorite trait for determining who's qualified to sit on environmental boards.

Eckburg is a director of the Eagle Forum, a Christian leadership group. At the Eagle Forum's 2003 annual meeting, there were lectures with such titles as: "The Liberals War on Christianity," "Passing Pro-Life Legislation," "Challenging the Evolution Mandate," and "What to Do about Activist Judges."

Chris DeScherer, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who specializes in coastal issues, says, "By picking these two conservative advocates, Barrett has made no pretense of trying to nominate folks with a balanced view."

Word up.

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