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Lawyer's rfiemos pum9 up concern
SUMMARY: An investigation by West Coast w at r
Regional Water Supply of whether a lawyerT Ono
told consultants what findings to reach would
require an outside auditor.
By NEIL JOHNSON and DAVID PEDREIRA
of The Tampa Tribune
BROOKSVILLE The possibility Pi-
nellas County's top water lawyer directed
consultants to downplay damage from
pumping has raised concerns with members
of the area's largest water supplier.
Pasco Commission Chairman Ed Collins,
who sits on the West Coast Regional Water
Supply Authority's board, wants the agency
to investigate whether other scientific re-
ports have been influenced by attorneys.
A 1986 letter and 1995 memo from at-
torney Ed de la Parte Jr. surfaced during a
hearing Monday. They make it appear the
lawyer was instructing consultants about
what conclusions to reach.
The documents also have attracted the
attention of the Florida Bar Association,
which has opened an investigation into
whether de la Parte violated ethics rules.
Linda Lyman, manager of the Bar's Eth-
ics and Grievance office in Tampa, said the
investigation was started Tuesday and was
assigned to an attorney. The first step will
be to ask de la Parte for an explanation.
Depending on his response, the probe
could continue or be closed, she said.
De la Parte said he was confirming a
consultant's conclusions in the 1986 letter
and outlining strategy for attorneys in the
He said Wednesday he has not been told
the specific allegations the Bar is investigat-
ing, but said he violated no rules. "I'm con-
fident that I have not done anything
wrong," he said.
Hillsborough Commissioner Ed
Turanchik, chairman of the West Coast
board, shared some of Collins' concerns but
was not sure how the investigation Collins
wants could be done.
"It's very disturbing," he said. "The on-
ly way would be to have outside counsel
audit all records and transcripts and see if
any consultant reports have been driven by
In the 1986 letter, de la Parte, who
worked for West Coast at the time, appears
to instruct the consultant not to find any
adverse environmental impacts from pump-
ing at theCross Bar Ranch wellfield in
"Your report must show that the water
table impact will not significantly and ad-
versely effect vegetation outside the well-
field boundaries," de la Parte wrote.
De la Parte, who has made more than
$2 million representing Pinellas County,
said the letter was to follow up a meeting
where the consultant said he did not believe
there was damage from the pumping be-
.yond the wellfield
property. He told the
consultant that infor-
mation should be in the
West Coast sup-
plies wholesale water de la Parte Jr.
to 1.8 million people
with wellfields in Hillsborough and Pasco.
Collins, who believes pumping has
drained lakes and wetlands in Pasco, said he
will consider asking for an independent au-
ditor at Monday's West Coast meeting.
"It's quite obvious that he very directly
wanted to influence what was being report-
ed by the consultant," Collins said. "This is