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South Carolina Congressman Henry Brown Pays Reduced Fine for 2004 Forest Fire

June 5, 2008

South Carolina Congressman Henry Brown Pays Reduced Fine for 2004 Forest Fire

After four years of threats to the National Forest Service

CHARLESTON, SC – The Washington Post reported today that Congressman Henry Brown has settled his four year dispute with the U.S. Forest Service over the 2004 forest fire he set when a controlled burn jumped the fire lane from his property and burned 20 acres of the Francis Marion National Forest. The settlement, $4,747 – is less than the original $7,000 fine, and far less than the reported $100,000 in staff time to collect the fine.

According to the Post article, after discussions with Rep. Brown, the Forest Service “modified its regulations last month to make it more difficult for the government to seek criminal penalties against violators who allow fires to burn out of control onto federal land.”

In fact, according to a whistle-blower complaint, when Rep. Brown was ticketed for $250, he allegedly threatened to “[scrutinize] more closely” Forest Service project budgets. When the Forest Service refused to budge, Mr. Brown demanded that the regulations be changed – and retroactively applied. Though the Forest Service refused to reword the regulations, Environmental Undersecretary Mark Rey (a Bush appointee) ordered that no ticket be issued against Mr. Brown.

FURTHER DETAIL:

· Henry Brown was warned on Mar. 5, 2004 that it was a dangerous day to conduct a controlled burn. Mr. Brown later dismissed the significance of the warning, as other burn operations were taking place the same day.

· According to agents who responded to the fire, Henry Brown was not sufficiently prepared for the burn operation. >From the Post and Courier, Sept. 15, 2004: “[Agent responding to fire] Carlson said that what most alarmed him was that Brown’s fire had been set to burn toward the Francis Marion.”

· The fine was $250, but the charge automatically triggered a bill for cleanup and suppression costs. Initially, the Forest Service estimated Brown owed $7,000 for dousing the fire. From the Washington Post, June 4, 2008: “Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that has tracked the case, said the government spent more than $100,000 in staff time to collect less than $5,000.”

· Brown warned he would target Forest Service Funds if ticketed. Jerome Thomas, the Francis Marion/Sumter national forests supervisor, said he and Forest Service employee John Sadler would call the congressman first as a “courtesy.” The conference call that followed was one of the more controversial aspects of the case. Thomas, through a spokesman, would not comment on the ongoing investigation. Sandler, however, said Brown took the news badly. Brown said his political opponents could find out about the fine if he were forced to list it in his ethics report, the complaint says. “Brown stated that if the Forest Service persisted and issued a (ticket), Forest Service programs might need to be scrutinized more closely.” Sadler said there was no mistake in the meaning.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Deanna permalink
    September 29, 2008 10:54 am

    he should be ashamed and we should too, he shouldnt even be allowed to hold office. He is what’s wrong with this country and he needs to go to church and learn how to live a little bit more in line with how God wants us to behave

  2. September 29, 2008 1:08 pm

    Henry, You have been in Washington too long. You have lost your integrity. Power is not to be used for personal gain. One also has to wonder about the intelligence of any public official that does something so stupid as to not just pay the original fine and admit making a mistake.

  3. Joe permalink
    October 2, 2008 6:48 am

    Why am I not surprised. Then go on tv and lie about in the debate with Linda Ketner. Henry Brown you should be ashamed of yourself and own up to the facts. Power hungry people like you run this country and use threats and intimidating to stay in office.

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