D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration said Friday it had fired the city’s environment director, Christophe A.G. Tulou, for what officials termed a “serious breach of protocol” in negotiations over a long-term sewer project.
The announcement was an unexpected and unusual development on the cusp of the Labor Day weekend. A statement from City Administrator Allen Y. Lew said Mr. Tulou had been “dismissed” as director of the D.C. Department of the Environment (DDOE) but declined to say why.
“It was something that could not be ignored,” Mr. Lew’s spokesman, Tony Robinson, said.
Multiple officials who declined to be named confirmed Mr. Tulou’s firing involved a joint effort with the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority on an alternative green infrastructure pilot program to reduce the impact of sewer overflows into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek. They say Mr. Tulou’s agency flouted protocol by unilaterally submitting comments about the project to the federal Environmental Protection Agency without the advice and consent of the Gray administration.
Mr. Lew’s office said Keith Anderson has been appointed to serve as interim director of the department, effective immediately. Mr. Anderson is a 10-year veteran of the D.C. government and most recently served as chief of staff at DDOE.
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation said she was briefed on the situation by Mr. Lew on Friday afternoon. She declined to discuss the reasons behind the dismissal and said she would leave any explanation up to the mayor’s office.
D.C. Water also declined to comment, yet suggested there was no friction between its agency, led by former DDOE Director George Hawkins, and Mr. Tulou.
“We feel as though it was a good working relationship, and we look forward to working with Mr. Anderson, who we also know well,” D.C. Water spokesman Alan Heymann said.
Mr. Tulou was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and had worked as a staffer in Congress before former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty tapped him to serve as DDOE director in May 2010, according to his official biography.
In a statement Friday, Mr. Lew said he and the mayor “thank Christophe for his service.”
“We will immediately commence a search for a strong, innovative leader of this vital agency to continue Mayor Gray’s Sustainable D.C. Initiative to transform the nation’s capital into the healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the world,” he said.
Mr. Gray rolled out his Sustainable D.C. vision earlier this year as a 20-year plan that addresses the city’s dramatic increase in population through a series of goals, including a reduction in greenhouse gases, a lower obesity rate and an increase in “green jobs.”