JEFFERSON CITY — Mark Templeton, the embattled and then marginalized leader of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, is leaving state government for a role in the gulf oil spill response effort.
Templeton joined the department in 2009 when Gov. Jay Nixon took office. But he was suspended later that year in the fallout from pollution problems at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Since then, he has continued as director but served in a much-diminished capacity. He was, for example, nowhere to be found at a two-day symposium earlier this month on lake water.
"I appreciate Mark's service and leadership of numerous projects critical to the protection of Missouri's natural resources — from our state parks and historic sites, to the safety of our wastewater treatment systems," Nixon, a Democrat, said in a statement.
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Templeton did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Soon after the governor appointed Templeton as DNR director, the agency delayed for a month releasing a report that showed dangerously high levels of E. coli bacteria at Lake of the Ozarks.
DNR remained under fire all summer. In September, when Nixon learned that the department also had failed to close two Lake of the Ozarks beaches in May because of high levels of E. coli, he suspended Templeton for two weeks.
Three other top DNR administrators left the department soon after Templeton was suspended. This summer, however, brought a change. Beach closings because of high E. coli and sewer spills are announced routinely and disseminated statewide.
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