5-23-16 E&E Daily: Lawmaker calls for Jarvis to resign

Another congressman this morning joined the small band of lawmakers questioning whether Jonathan Jarvis should continue to lead the National Park Service.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) announced during a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing that he had sent President Obama a letter last week urging him to ask Jarvis to resign over the director’s decision to write an unauthorized book for an NPS concessionaire.

“Should he choose not to resign, I believe you must relieve him of his duties immediately,” the congressman wrote.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — on which Hice also sits — have previously argued that Jarvis may need to step aside (Greenwire, June 14).

In both the letter and today’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Hice said he was upset both by Jarvis’ initial decision and his response to congressional oversight of that mistake, as well as instances of sexual harassment and other ethical violations at NPS exposed by Interior’s Office of Inspector General.

E&E Daily

INTERIOR:

Lawmaker calls for Jarvis to resign

Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another congressman this morning joined the small band of lawmakers questioning whether Jonathan Jarvis should continue to lead the National Park Service.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) announced during a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing that he had sent President Obama a letter last week urging him to ask Jarvis to resign over the director’s decision to write an unauthorized book for an NPS concessionaire.

“Should he choose not to resign, I believe you must relieve him of his duties immediately,” the congressman wrote.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — on which Hice also sits — have previously argued that Jarvis may need to step aside (Greenwire, June 14).

In both the letter and today’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Hice said he was upset both by Jarvis’ initial decision and his response to congressional oversight of that mistake, as well as instances of sexual harassment and other ethical violations at NPS exposed by Interior’s Office of Inspector General.

“I’ve been shocked at the culture of corruption and misconduct that has been allowed to persist at the National Park Service,” he said.

He asked Mary Kendall, Interior’s deputy inspector general, about an apology email Jarvis sent to all NPS employees over the book deal (Greenwire, June 2).

“I thought it was terribly qualified and not as sincere as I would like to have seen,” said Kendall, whose office is working on at least one additional report of sexual harassment at NPS.

There was no one at the hearing to take the beleaguered director’s side. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) said the subcommittee had invited Interior to provide a high-level representative to testify; the agency sent Steve Guertin, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s deputy director of policy. And ranking member Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and the rest of the subcommittee’s Democratic members declined to attend after a daylong sit-in over gun control and a series of late-night votes.

The Republicans also lamented the lack of any representative from the Department of Justice. They had invited Attorney General Loretta Lynch to send someone to explain why DOJ has declined to prosecute 17 of the 29 criminal cases that the OIG has sent to the agency over the course of six months.

“Rather than send a witness, DOJ instead put off the committee for days, questioned committee staff as to whether this committee has the right to request their presence at the witness table and ultimately suggested that we read the ‘Principles of Federal Prosecution’ online instead,” said subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

“Let me make this clear: It is completely appropriate for this committee to request the presence of the Department of Justice at the witness table,” he added. “We have a valid interest in its involvement in these OIG investigations, and in learning, from DOJ itself, about its processes for handling OIG referrals. The Department of Justice’s refusal to be here today makes me wonder what their motivations for failing to prosecute these cases really are.”

The rest of the hearing focused on a series of high-profile cases of misconduct that the OIG has uncovered in recent months.

Guertin sharply criticized Stephen Barton, the service’s former chief of administration and information management for wildlife and sport fish restoration, who repeatedly failed to disclose that the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies paid him more than $375,000 over seven years for his services. FWS has sent Barton a collection notice to recoup more than $96,000 it paid on flights that allowed him to work both jobs (Greenwire, June 8).

Full committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) had questions for Kendall about the Interior Department’s former regulatory chief, who the OIG found had “used her position and influence” to hire a young man who appears to be a family friend over more qualified veteran applicants (E&E Daily, June 23).

Lawmakers also sought to assess the damage caused by a U.S. Geological Survey lab in Colorado that an OIG report found consistently manipulated lab results that are used by the Energy Resources Program and many other entities from at least 2008 to 2014, and possibly as far back as 1996.

Twitter: @corbinhiar Email: chiar@eenews.net

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