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Illinois' mining-oversight official fired

Published: Friday, April 18, 2014 10:57 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Scott Fitzgerald)
Former Illinois Department of Natural Resources official Tony Mayville participates in an event March 4, 2014 at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

ST. LOUIS – A top administrator with the Illinois state agency that regulates coal mining and other energy interests has been fired, becoming the latest official to depart in the last two months.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokesman Chris Young confirmed Friday that Tony Mayville was dismissed this week from his position as supervisor of mine safety enforcement with the DNR's Office and Mines and Minerals. Young declined to elaborate, calling Mayville's ouster a private personnel matter.

Mayville, 58, told the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers that reasons for his departure were twofold: He ran unsuccessfully for an Illinois House seat without first getting clearance from the DNR's chief and mishandled campaign donations from a coal company.

Calls by The Associated Press to Mayville's Du Bois home went unanswered Friday.

Mayville went on unpaid leave in February after his campaign notified the State Board of Elections that $2,000 from St. Louis-based mining company Foresight Energy Services was inadvertently deposited into the campaign's bank account. The funds were intended for the local Democratic Party, and the campaign said it repaid the party.

Mayville lost last month's Democratic primary for the state's 115th District House seat.

Mayville's ouster followed the forced February resignation of Travis Loyd, an Office of Mines and Minerals director who attended several professional fishing tournaments during some of the 44 days of sick leave he took last summer for a chronic illness.

Also in February, two mine-safety regulators, including the Office of Mines and Minerals' acting director, Michael Woods, were discovered to have accepted contributions from a coal-mining company for separate political funds they operate. One went on unpaid leave during an investigation, and Woods resigned.

And Ronald House, the DNR's director of the office of land management who served as the chief of state parks, came under scrutiny last month when the AP reported he wrongly collected $7,200 in travel reimbursement for commuting to or from work. House, of the southern Illinois town of Benton, was ordered to repay the money.

DNR Director Marc Miller, intent on rehabbing the department's image after such public missteps, rolled out administrative reforms earlier this month, including providing those on the DNR payroll "more specific guidance to employees with respect to prohibited acts, and areas of potential or apparent conflict." Other changes were related to providing more transparency in the permit process involving coal mines.

While Young said Friday that recent departures of high-level administrators should not compromise the DNR's oversight of the state's venerable energy industry, a top Illinois environmentalist said the management housecleaning could be a blessing.

"We've heard in recent weeks that (Miller and Gov. Pat Quinn, seeking re-election) want to improve their approach to regulating mining and drilling, and that's desperately needed," said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club's Illinois chapter. "Part of that may be getting some new blood into the department – some new professionals, perhaps with broader perspective than promoting the coal industry."

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