Grand Jury on Tree Cutting Case

In June 2009, Citizens for a Scenic Florida received an anonymous letter reporting that acres of trees were being cut down along I-10 and other state roads in the Panhandle without approved vegetation management plans or associated mitigation fees. As it turned out, more than 2000 trees were “illegally removed” from state right-of-way along I-10 and other roads in the Panhandle. The letter indicated that the trees were removed by Bill Salter Advertising Co. in order to create view zones for the company’s billboards. The letter also suggested that Salter Advertising had used the influence of then State Representative Greg Evers to broker a deal with FDOT leadership and that an FDOT employee had been ordered by the FDOT District Director of Operations James Rodgers to let Salter Advertising “do whatever they want.” In response to public records requests by Citizens for a Scenic Florida and the St. Pete Times, no documents provided by FDOT confirmed any communications on the subject between then Representative Evers, then FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos, and then FDOT Deputy Secretary Kevin Thibault. In response to a public records request made in 2010 (by a citizen in St. Petersburg) for all emails to and from Secretary Kopelousos for a given period, among the thousands of documents provided by FDOT were emails revealing such communication between Evers, Kopelousos and Thibault. Other emails turned up later when the original records requests were repeated verbatim in 2011. This information was forwarded to the State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit and subsequently reviewed by a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury called it a debacle.

Grand Jury Presentment (report)

Grand Jury Presentment Attachments

Citizens for a Scenic Florida Press Release

Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to Governor Scott

Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to FDOT Secretary

FDOT letter (dated 2-22-2012) to Bill Salter Advertising, Inc.

Citizens for a Scenic Florida