Because of recent publicity regarding our dispute with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and because of some self-serving public statements by the DEP, we have decided to set the record straight.
Gitto/Global Corp. has a proven record of environmental compliance. We have a highly regarded compliance program, on which we spend tens of thousands of dollars per year and for which we have a retained team of consultants. We regard this as a priority in our business.
In November 1999, the DEP conducted a regular inspection of our facility. We and our environmental consultants cooperated in that inspection and we gave full access to all of our premises and operations. To assist us in our environmental compliance efforts, we requested that the DEP furnish us with the results of their inspection. They refused. We continued to ask, and still they refused. Finally, on Sept. 1, we received a letter from the DEP claiming that unspecified "environmental violations" had been discovered, threatening fines and litigation.
We immediately contacted DEP and asked them to identify these so-called environmental violations. They refused to tell us. When our lawyers pressed the matter, they said that they would only identify the alleged violations if we agreed to allow another unrestricted inspection of our plant and if we waived certain legal defenses to claims which they might eventually bring. We refused.
It was and is our conviction that if the DEP had knowledge of environmental violations, it had a legal, as well as a moral and ethical, obligation to tell us what their claims were. Frankly, we were not going to allow a group of regulators with preconceived conclusions to roam through our plant for the purpose of finding some trivial or technical violation. We felt, and continue to feel, that if there were in fact any serious complaints, they would have told us what they were.
We were well aware that the DEP and the branch of the Massachusetts Attorney General´s Office, which deals with the DEP, uses its public relations resources as a means of forcing companies to meet its demands. In this case, an implicit threat was that unless we agreed to pay a large fine, and allowed unlimited inspections of our premises, even without the privilege of knowing what we were charged with, a highly publicized lawsuit would result.
Rather than be subject to this, we decided that the right thing to do was to sue the DEP. On Sept. 14, we brought a lawsuit in Massachusetts Superior Court, asking the court to review this situation and to issue a judgment certifying our compliance with applicable environmental rules. We welcome the opportunity to have this matter fully aired.
Finally recognizing that we were not going to bend our knees to its demands, the DEP subsequently filed a lawsuit against our company. That lawsuit, for the first time, identified the alleged environmental violations. We have now reviewed these with our consultants and lawyers and this review confirms that the claims are without substance.
In all matters of this type, the easy thing to do is to accommodate the regulators. Our priority in our business is product development and customer service. We would rather devote ourselves to these than do battle with the Massachusetts DEP, and the easy thing to do would have been to pay an undeserved fine and put this matter behind us. But the easy thing to do is not the right thing.
I am glad that we made the right decision, and all of us very much appreciate the words of encouragement and support that we have received from our customers and vendors, and even from our competitors.
Gary C. Gitto