Two Coast environmental groups are protesting the appointment of a Bay St. Louis businesswoman to the Commission on Marine Resources.
Jolynne Trapani, co-owner of Trapani’s Eatery, was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant last week. That appointment flew under the radar of the local Sierra Club and Restore Mississippi Sound until the weekend, when emails questioning her environmental credentials began circulating.
“I resent that environmental groups aren’t involved in the pick, at least the environmental groups other than (Coastal Conservation Association),” said Steve Shepard, chairman of the Coast Sierra Club chapter, in an email Friday.
Trapani is a member of the Coastal Conservation Association’s Bay Chapter and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. She was a founding member of Bay Area Recovery Team, which she said was responsible for helping make the Bay St. Louis Harbor a reality. She is active in the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce and her restaurant was Business of the Year in 2011. She served on the Historic Preservation Commission.
“I suspect she has not been actively fighting to save the environment and she will not vote in ways that represent our concerns,” Shepard wrote. “She sounds more like a pro-business pick than an environmentalist.”
Trapani will replace Ernie Zimmerman, who died this summer, as the representative of nonprofit environmental groups.
Shepard said he and “as many as can go during working hours” will be at the CMR meeting Tuesday in Bay St. Louis when Trapani is on the agenda to be sworn in. That meeting will be at the Hancock County Board of Supervisors Board Room at 854 Highway 90.
Trapani can serve at least until the state Senate’s Ports and Marine Resources Committee investigates her and votes on whether to affirm or reject her appointment, said committee Chairman Tommy Gollott of Biloxi. That won’t happen until the 2017 legislative session, which will begin in January, he said.
“I am honored and would like to thank Gov. Bryant for this appointment. I look forward to working with our Director Jamie Miller and his staff, along with my fellow commissioners,” Trapani said in the press release announcing her appointment. “I understand the importance of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to our environment, recreation, and commerce as it relates to the entire state, not just the Gulf Coast.”
The Sierra Club and Restore Mississippi Sound in a joint press released said there could be a conflict of interest with Trapani’s appointment.
“In addition to the lack of transparency and public process in advertising for and filling the position, coast environmental representatives believe that there could be a conflict of interest in Trapani’s ties to business and how she may vote on important environmental issues,” the release said. “Among the critical problems the Commission addresses are declining fish and shellfish populations, the appropriate length of fishing seasons, environmental damage associated with the development and construction of bulkheads, piers, boathouses, and other facilities in the coastal area, and water quality problems.”
Miller backs her
Miller said Trapani was a good choice.
“Jolynne Trapani is a great addition to the Commission on Marine Resources, and I look forward to working with her to continue the important work of our agency,” he wrote.
F.J. Eicke, chairman of CCA-Mississippi’s Governmental Relations Committee, said he didn’t know who recommended Trapani, but it wasn’t the CCA.
“CCA has no idea how or by whom she was nominated and was a surprise to our members,” he said in an email. “Jolynne apparently is a member of CCA but that would not be unusual since we would extend a membership to her since Trapani’s takes part in our Sunset on the Bay fundraiser each October, or she joined on her own. I am aware of the Sierra Club dissent but CCA Mississippi has not taken a position since she is nominated to the Environmental seat.”
Trapani could not be reached Monday.