8-1-16 Bipartisan request to NPS Jarvis : What Are You Doing About Sexual Harassment And Misconduct?

National Parks Traveler

Bipartisan Request To National Park Service: What Are You Doing About Sexual Harassment And Misconduct?

By Kurt Repanshek on August 1st, 2016

Concerned that the National Park Service is not taking adequate steps to root out sexual harassment and misconduct in the Service, members of Congress have asked National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to provide three reports from more than a decade ago that looked into the problems so they can “understand NPS’s response to sexual harassment and misconduct.”

The request (attached below), signed by Republican House members Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, and Democratic House members Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Brenda L. Lawrence of Michigan, comes less than a month before the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday.

The specter of how widespread sexual harassment and misconduct might be across the ranks of the National Park Service, which counts roughly 20,000 employees, has lingered all year in the background of the buildup to the centennial celebration. It first arose in January with the release of a report from the Interior Department’s Office of Inspecter General that described a 15-year chapter of sordid behavior among the staff of Grand Canyon National Park’s River District Office.

The investigation generated a tawdry list of inappropriate behavior, from male employees taking photographs up under a female co-worker’s dress and groping female workers to women dancing provocatively and bringing a drinking straw “shaped like a penis and testicles” to river parties. The incidents, a September 2014 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell charged, “demonstrated evidence of ‘discrimination, retaliation, and a sexually hostile work environment.’”

The agency’s most recent struggles with misconduct and sexual harassment date to the 1990s, when the Park Service reached an Equal Employment Opportunity settlement “that stemmed from complaints of harassment and gender bias in promotions at Grand Canyon National Park,” the letter to Director Jarvis noted. “The task force found NPS was unable to retain women in law enforcement positions due to gender bias, sexual harassment and hostile work environments. Over half of the female park rangers who responded to the survey experienced sexual harassment on the job, and eighty percent knew someone who experienced harassment but did not report it for fear of retaliation.

“The Park Service has been aware of problems with sexual harassment since 2000, but is responding to these more recent incidents with yet another survey,” the letter said. “This response is especially disappointing in light of the fact that some of the same officials handling the Park Service’s response to these cases were involved in 2000.”

More recently, OIG investigators in June reported that they had “found that a law enforcement supervisor at Canaveral National Seashore made an unwanted sexual advance toward his subordinate, a law enforcement employee, in December 2015. In addition, we found a pattern of harassment involving this supervisor and two other (Seashore) employees.”

Our investigation revealed that over the past 5 years, the law enforcement supervisor has shown a pattern of sexual harassment involving the law enforcement employee and two other female employees at CANA. We found that on December 4, 2015, he took the law enforcement employee to the home of a park volunteer and made an unwanted sexual advance toward her in the volunteer’s bedroom. We also found that he sexually harassed another employee in 2015 by repeatedly complimenting her on her physical appearance, giving her unwanted and unsolicited tokens of affection, asking her out on dates, and attempting to engage her in conversation about sexually explicit content in movies. In 2011, he harassed the third employee by repeatedly asking her out and calling her on her personal cell phone after duty hours.

Overall, the law enforcement supervisor refused to accept full responsibility for his actions concerning any of the three women. He also provided vague and contradictory answers to our interview questions and demonstrated a lack of candor during multiple interviews about the incident with the law enforcement employee, and denied ever sexually harassing the other two CANA employees.

In their letter to Director Jarvis, sent this past Thursday, the congressmen and women noted that the problem of sexual misconduct and harassment has plagued the agency even though top leadership long has known of it. For example, they pointed to Sue Masica, director of the Park Service’s Intermountain Region, the largest in the system. They noted that she was a member of the Park Service’s Leadership Council that in November 2000 received the Women In Law Enforcement Task Force report that examined the earlier problem of sexual harassment at Grand Canyon.

“The fact that the Park Service’s cultural problems have persisted for at least sixteen years shows the Park Service’s response to the (WLET) task force’s findings was ineffective, and fresh ideas are necessary,” the letter stated.

“The final WLET report recommended that NPS institute a training program and a hotline for reporting grievances to the EEO office, among other recommendations that were to be completed by October 2005,” the letter went on. “The Park Service never implemented any of these recommendations. It should come as no surprise that NPS is still plagued by the same serious issues.”

According to the congressmen and women, “(T)o date, however, conversations with the OIG have revealed no final agency action had been taken against any senior-level personnel as a result of the OIG’s findings” in either the Grand Canyon or Canaveral cases.

The three requested documents.

Former Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga did retire this past June 1, rather than take a transfer to the Park Service’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Director Jarvis in mid-July announced that Christine Lehnertz, superintendent of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California, would take the helm at Grand Canyon.

08-01-16 Laura Watt’s Book available now: The Paradox of Preservation: Wilderness & Working Landscapes at PRNS

Available now at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520277082/ref=kinw_rke_rti_1

 

The Paradox of Preservation: Wilderness and Working Landscapes at Point Reyes National SeashorePaperback– November 29, 2016

by

Laura Alice Watt (Author)

 

Point Reyes National Seashore has a long history as a working landscape, with dairy and beef ranching, fishing, and oyster farming; yet, since 1962 it has also been managed as a National Seashore. The Paradox of Preservation chronicles how national ideals about what a park “ought to be” have developed over time and what happens when these ideals are implemented by the National Park Service (NPS) in its efforts to preserve places that are also lived-in landscapes. Using the conflict surrounding the closure of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Laura Alice Watt examines how NPS management policies and processes for land use and protection do not always reflect the needs and values of local residents. Instead, the resulting landscapes produced by the NPS represent a series of compromises between use and protection—and between the area’s historic pastoral character and a newer vision of wilderness. A fascinating and deeply researched book, The Paradox of Preservation will appeal to those studying environmental history, conservation, public lands, and cultural landscape management, or to those looking to learn more about the history of this dynamic California coastal region.

7-28-16 House Committee on Oversight demands unredacted reports re sexual harassment from NPS Dir Jon Jarvis

More on Jarvis.

 

https://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2016-07-28-JEC-EEC-CL-BL-to-Jarvis-NPS-Misconduct-Letter-due-8-11-REDACTED.pdf

 

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform just sent a bi-partisan letter to NPS Director Jarvis demanding certain specified unredacted reports and documents related to on-going sexual harassment issues and policies be submitted to the Committee within two weeks.

 

The letter was signed by Chairman Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Dem, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) at the Full Committee AND Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Chair, Subcommittee on Interior and her ranking Member, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI).

07-27-16 PEER: Jarvis Been Asked to Remain but #2, a woman, OUT

In the face of a rising chorus urging his firing, National Park Service (NPS) Director Jon Jarvis has been asked to remain through the end of the Obama term, according to meeting minutes posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the number two NPS official and highest-ranking female, Margaret (Peggy) O’Dell, will be leaving by the end of July.

In this its centennial year, the Park Service has been buffeted by a series of scandals, including highly publicized reports of female staff being propositioned or otherwise harassed in places ranging from Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park to Florida’s Canaveral National Seashore. In a radio interview last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell admitted that these incidents may be “just the tip of the iceberg…I’m sure that as we investigate this, we will find there is a bigger issue, a culture that allows these things to go on that needs to change …What needs to change is really a function of leadership.”

Yet change at the NPS will not start at the top. Minutes from a July 11, 2016 meeting of the NPS National Leadership Council, consisting of Jarvis, top deputies and regional directors, indicate that:

“Jon Jarvis will NOT be resigning. The Department has asked him to stay and given him their full support. He will be retiring in January 2017.” (Emphasis in original)

Meanwhile, Peggy O’Dell, a 37-year agency veteran and Deputy Director for Operations since 2011, is abruptly retiring, a departure thus far not marked with the usual official announcement.

 

 

For Immediate Release: Jul 20, 2016
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE LEADERSHIP SHAKEN NOT STIRRED

Top Woman Out; Top Men Remain Amid Sex Harassment, Ethics & Other Scandals

Posted on Jul 20, 2016 | Tags: NPS

Washington, DC — In the face of a rising chorus urging his firing, National Park Service (NPS) Director Jon Jarvis has been asked to remain through the end of the Obama term, according to meeting minutes posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the number two NPS official and highest-ranking female, Margaret (Peggy) O’Dell, will be leaving by the end of July.

In this its centennial year, the Park Service has been buffeted by a series of scandals, including highly publicized reports of female staff being propositioned or otherwise harassed in places ranging from Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park to Florida’s Canaveral National Seashore. In a radio interview last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell admitted that these incidents may be “just the tip of the iceberg…I’m sure that as we investigate this, we will find there is a bigger issue, a culture that allows these things to go on that needs to change …What needs to change is really a function of leadership.”

Yet change at the NPS will not start at the top. Minutes from a July 11, 2016 meeting of the NPS National Leadership Council, consisting of Jarvis, top deputies and regional directors, indicate that:

“Jon Jarvis will NOT be resigning. The Department has asked him to stay and given him their full support. He will be retiring in January 2017.” (Emphasis in original)

Meanwhile, Peggy O’Dell, a 37-year agency veteran and Deputy Director for Operations since 2011, is abruptly retiring, a departure thus far not marked with the usual official announcement. She is slated to be replaced on August 1 by Mike Reynolds, currently the NPS Associate Director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion, the post directly responsible for preventing sexual harassment and related problems.

“Ousting your top female executive while keeping or promoting the responsible senior males does not bode well for improving the Park Service’s gender culture,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that no reason was given for O’Dell’s sudden stepdown. “Until these serious personnel knots are unraveled it may be imprudent to elevate the official who has been in charge of workplace ‘inclusion.’”

Jarvis has been recently reprimanded for ethics violations in fundraising and PEER is currently suing NPS to force release of records showing Jarvis’ potentially improper reliance on corporate jets. Last month, he was taken to task for failure to hold miscreant park superintendents and other employees to account in a brutal oversight hearing in which Jarvis’ nonresponses fanned bipartisan frustration. Citizen petitions are now circulating which call for his removal, a call echoed by a few Republican Congressmen.

The July meeting notes indicate that “Jarvis is focusing his last six months on workforce…in developing a more ‘inclusive, welcoming, respectful’ organizational culture.”

“By virtually every measure, Jon Jarvis has been the worst Director of the National Park Service in memory,” Ruch added, pointing to a litany of resource protection retreats, overlooked violations and highly questionable maneuvers during Jarvis’ tenure. “If he has failed to inspire any positive change in more than six years why would one expect him to be able to do so in less than six months?”

###

See the meeting minutes

Watch excruciating House oversight hearing on Jarvis

Look at Jarvis reprimand and plans to transform superintendents into fundraisers

Read PEER suit seeking records of Jarvis’ improper reliance on corporate jets

View official announcement of O’Dell’s appointment as deputy director

Scan litany of scandals on Jarvis’ watch

07-01-16 Sen. Murkowski Urges Park Service to Hire Alaskans

“The Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this August, and it saddens me to continue seeing reports of employee misconduct, mismanagement, and ethics violations—including the Director himself—coming out of the agency. Alaskans, and all Americans, love our National Parks. I will continue to work to ensure that their ethics and management issues, including these hiring practices in Alaska, do not continue as a cloud over the agency as it enters its next century.”

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 1, 2016

Permalink

 

CONTACT: Nicole Daigle 202.224.2576

 

 

Sen. Murkowski Urges Park Service to Hire Alaskans 

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today expressed her disappointment with the National Park Service’s (NPS) decision to select a non-Alaskan as superintendent at Sitka National Historical Park.

 

“I am extremely disappointed by yesterday’s announcement of yet another hiring of a non-Alaskan for a high-level position within the Alaska NPS Region, particularly at Sitka,” said Murkowski. “It does not appear that serious consideration was given to hiring local candidates for the superintendent position, despite input from the local community. The Park Service has given lip service to the importance of local hiring lately, but they need to start putting these plans into action.”

“The Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this August, and it saddens me to continue seeing reports of employee misconduct, mismanagement, and ethics violations—including the Director himself—coming out of the agency. Alaskans, and all Americans, love our National Parks. I will continue to work to ensure that their ethics and management issues, including these hiring practices in Alaska, do not continue as a cloud over the agency as it enters its next century.”

Murkowski is the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

###

 

Energy.Senate.Gov

Note: Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is unattended. For further information, please contact Nicole Daigle at 202-224-2576. Visit our website at http://energy.senate.gov

 

 

07-02-16 Washington Post: Lawmakers charge Park Service chief oversees a culture of sexual harassment

CANAVERAL NATIONAL SEASHORE, Fla. — This secluded beach on a barrier island off the Atlantic coast is a sunbathers’ paradise of nesting sea turtles and wading shore birds in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center.

But for rangers, visitor guides and many of the 50 employees here, working at this national park is anything but paradise.

Multiple female employees have been subjected to sexual harassment, and men and women alike to a hostile workplace for at least five years at Canaveral, government reports show. The park’s motto to describe the longest expanse of pristine shore in Florida is “the way it used to be.”

[Lawmakers charge that Park Service chief oversees a culture of sexual harassment]

The culture here became so toxic that the agency’s watchdog has conducted four investigations since 2012, an unusually high number for one of the park system’s smaller sites.

In the latest report, released in June, the inspector general for the Interior Department, the National Park Service’s parent agency, disclosed a pattern of unwanted advances and attention — along with inappropriate remarks — to female subordinates by the chief law enforcement officer. He is still employed by the park but was recently ordered to work at home.

Washington Post

PowerPost

 

Federal Insider

As National Park Service confronts sexual harassment, this dysfunctional park is Exhibit A

By Lisa Rein July 2 at 10:18 AM
Playalinda Beach, part of the Canaveral National Seashore. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today)

CANAVERAL NATIONAL SEASHORE, Fla. — This secluded beach on a barrier island off the Atlantic coast is a sunbathers’ paradise of nesting sea turtles and wading shore birds in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center.

But for rangers, visitor guides and many of the 50 employees here, working at this national park is anything but paradise.

Multiple female employees have been subjected to sexual harassment, and men and women alike to a hostile workplace for at least five years at Canaveral, government reports show. The park’s motto to describe the longest expanse of pristine shore in Florida is “the way it used to be.”

[Lawmakers charge that Park Service chief oversees a culture of sexual harassment]

The culture here became so toxic that the agency’s watchdog has conducted four investigations since 2012, an unusually high number for one of the park system’s smaller sites.

In the latest report, released in June, the inspector general for the Interior Department, the National Park Service’s parent agency, disclosed a pattern of unwanted advances and attention — along with inappropriate remarks — to female subordinates by the chief law enforcement officer. He is still employed by the park but was recently ordered to work at home.

Interviewed at his home in St. Cloud, Fla., the law enforcement officer, Edwin Correa — who was named publicly at a June congressional hearing — denied any inappropriate behavior, calling his actions “cultural misunderstandings.”

Investigators also substantiated off-color comments by another Canaveral manager, who told a woman who works for him that her peach-colored dress resembled a Creamsicle and that he could “lick it up.”

The investigations and interviews with nine current and former park employees reveal a troubling workplace culture in the remote park, which includes a nude beach and stretches 24 miles along the seashore 57 miles east of Orlando.

[Read some of the inspector general reports on Canaveral National Seashore here]

What happened here, along with explosive revelations in January of sexual harassment at the Grand Canyon and an ongoing inspector general probe of similar misconduct in at least one other park, has prompted a congressional hearing and a pointed email from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose agency oversees the Park Service.

For years, Canaveral has been run like a fiefdom where the brass broke the rules to hire friends and relatives for jobs and contracts, punished employees who blew the whistle and mistreated subordinates they did not like, interviews and inspector general reports show.

“It’s incompetent leaders and an attitude of, ‘Hey, I can do anything I want and there’s nothing you can do to me,” said Bruce Rosel, who retired as a district manager in 2013 after 34 years at the park.

Beyond the disturbing nature of the conduct is the question of why the Park Service has done so little to discipline supervisors and take steps to establish a safe and professional workplace for its employees.

“They just allowed this stuff to go on,” said Martha Schaffer, who retired as an administrator at the park in 2013, two years earlier than she had planned, because she felt the atmosphere was so poisonous. “Why doesn’t the Park Service hold anyone’s feet to the fire?”

It’s a question the Interior Department now says it needs to address throughout the park system.

A day after Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis took a bipartisan drubbing on Capitol Hill for failing to punish wrongdoers quickly or severely enough, Jewell told 70,000 Interior Department employees that sexual harassment is “completely out of line with our values.” She has demanded action from top Park Service officials to stop it.

The Park Service has been forced to acknowledge that sexual misconduct may be part of the culture of the sprawling, male-dominated system of 412 national parks, whose first rangers at the turn of the century were former cavalrymen.

“This is a huge wake-up call for us that we have some cultural issues we need to do a deep dive on,” Michael Reynolds, the agency’s associate director for human capital, said in an interview.

“We recognize that we’ve got a fairly non-diverse history and a heavily male culture,” Reynolds said. “We’re addressing it. We hope we’ll be much healthier for it.”

Jarvis told lawmakers in June that because civil servants have strong rights to appeal disciplinary proceedings, taking action against them is not easy.

The Park Service has long been a decentralized corner of the federal government, where many employees work in small groups in remote areas. Men made up 63 percent of the workforce in 2015, federal data shows, and about 85 percent of the law enforcement rangers.

The agency plans to hire an outside contractor this month to conduct an anonymous survey of its 22,000 full-time and seasonal employees to ask whether sexual harassment is widespread. Face-to-face training for managers and employees will be done at every park. A better reporting system “that makes sure our employees have a safe haven” to report harassment is in development, Reynolds said.

He said officials also are interviewing experts on combating sexual harassment, including meeting in May with a team at the Defense Department, which is confronting rising reports of sexual assault.

Park officials have been aware for 16 years of sexual misconduct in the system, where a flood of complaints about harassment and gender bias in promotions at the Grand Canyon led to the formation of a task force in 1999 to address the issue nationwide. But little was done with the recommendations, which were first reported by the High Country News.

[Female Park Service employees say they were propositioned, groped and bullied on Grand Canyon river trips]

Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said that implementation of most of the recommendations was derailed by budget cuts and the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but that they “will be revisited” now.

Until now, the Park Service has not made sexual-harassment training mandatory for all employees, limiting annual online courses to its supervisors.

Several Republican lawmakers have called on Jarvis to resign, saying he has long failed to take sexual misconduct seriously.

“He allowed this to fester,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “More than two dozen women at the Grand Canyon and Canaveral National Seashore have filed claims of harassment,” he said. “And not one perpetrator has been fired.”

Chaffetz confronts Park Service head over sexual harassment claims

Play Video2:53

At a House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing on June 14, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the committee, questioned the “zero tolerance” National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis claimed to have for sexual harassment within his agency. (House Oversight & Government Reform Committee)

Jarvis, through a spokesman, declined requests for an interview.

The disarray at Canaveral goes beyond allegations of sexual harassment.

Retired Canaveral administrator Schaffer recalled an unpleasant incident in which the manager cited by the inspector general in June — her longtime supervisor — demanded to see her medical records before approving sick leave for a gynecological operation, asking “what they were going to do to me,” she said.

Racial tensions are also high. The park superintendent, Myrna Palfrey, has failed to manage her employees, according to employees and investigators, who described a “lack of candor” in her dealings with them. Her name was not disclosed in the government reports, which were redacted, but several current and former employees complained about her leadership.

Palfrey declined several requests for comment.

Correa and another manager were accused of inappropriate behavior toward subordinates. Neither alleged perpetrator was named by the inspector general, but Correa’s name was made public in the House hearing.

The Park Service suspended Correa’s commission to carry a weapon in early May after learning of the inspector general’s findings. But he continued to work at the park for six more weeks until the congressional hearing, and was then told to work from home.

A Park Service spokesman, Andrew Munoz, said officials are “reviewing” disciplinary action against both managers. He acknowledged that, “looking back, we will have to review whether we could have taken action earlier to put [Correa] on telework.”

Canaveral is not the only park where sexual harassment and a prolonged Park Service response have been a problem.

Seven months after investigators revealed that boatmen and a supervisor at the Grand Canyon pressured female colleagues for sex on long river trips, then bullied and retaliated against some who rejected or reported their advances, some of the alleged perpetrators have retired. The others are still working in the park but have not been disciplined, a spokeswoman said.
The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The park superintendent at Grand Canyon, widely criticized for ignoring the women’s complaints, was offered a job transfer to the agency’s Washington headquarters but retired June 1, Jarvis said at the House hearing.

“Personnel actions … are under development with appropriate human resources and legal support,” according to a document provided by spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo.

The park has hired an outside investigator to examine allegations of inappropriate behavior that recently came to light in another division in the Grand Canyon, the document said.

At Canaveral, misconduct also went on for years.

In 2012, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall’s office documented contracting violations and nepotism at the park, where Correa and other managers violated federal acquisition rules by putting multiple small payments on government credit cards to avoid getting competitive bids for a new boardwalk, visitors center and other projects. Park spokesman Munoz said Correa was reprimanded for these activities.

Among the friends and relatives hired were two employees with criminal records.

Little had changed two years later, when investigators were back with another report on the same misconduct. Park Superintendent Palfrey, who is Hispanic, evaded investigators’ questions and accused some of her subordinates of “racially based comments” against Latinos and African Americans, the inspector general found.

Investigators described an “overall sense of dissension” among co-workers at Canaveral and questioned Palfrey’s management of her employees.

Candace Carter, a biologist who reported the nepotism and procurement irregularities, said she was mistreated in retaliation, including being whistled at by her supervisors because of her status as a whistleblower. She won a ruling in 2014 from the Merit Systems Protection Board, which also found that Palfrey misled under oath the administrative judge hearing Carter’s case.
Candace Carter, a whistleblower who won a retaliation case, helps with a sea turtle in 2010 at Canaveral National Seashore. (Photo via Florida Today)

Carter said her boss, a law enforcement official who carried a weapon, was so angry at her whistle-blowing that he grabbed her arm during a meeting of park employees and held it tightly for several seconds, she said in an interview. The supervisor was suspended for three days and later retired.

Park employees say it was this laissez-faire, hostile culture that set the tone for years of sexual misconduct.

Investigators found that last year, Correa repeatedly complimented one employee on her physical appearance, asked her out on dates and tried to engage her in conversation about sexually explicit content in movies. In 2011, he harassed another woman by repeatedly asking her out and calling her on her personal cellphone after hours, investigators said.

After the woman told colleagues, Correa and another manager went to the ranger station where she worked, ushered her into a small supply room and shut the door to discuss the matter, according to multiple employees. The woman later told colleagues that she had felt intimidated.

Last December, Correa took a park ranger he supervised to the home of a park volunteer he said needed help hanging Christmas decorations — and instead propositioned her for sex after putting his arms around her waist, pressing himself against her and trying to kiss her, investigators found.

The woman said, according to the report, that she asked the supervisor what he was doing, and he pointed toward the bed and said: “But we’re here. Why not? No one will know.”

The Volusia County state attorney is weighing criminal charges against Correa in relation to this and two other incidents involving the woman, a spokesman said.

“It comes down to Canaveral’s management and Myrna Palfrey, who has failed her employees,” one of the victims said in an interview with The Washington Post. She commented on the condition of anonymity because park officials warned her not to speak to a reporter.

“On numerous, documented occasions, she has fostered an environment of retaliation for those who speak up,” the woman said of Palfrey.

At least two other female employees were subjected to harassment by Correa, according to employees.

Correa told The Post that the women he allegedly harassed are “great people” and that he is friends with all of them.

He denied any inappropriate behavior, calling his actions “cultural misunderstandings” because as a Latino, he is warm and affectionate with most people. After the meeting with one woman in the supply room, “we clarified things and everything was great,” he said.

Correa says, however, he is angry that the Park Service did not give him a chance to apologize to the women if he had offended them, since he has been forbidden to contact them.

“If I did something wrong, don’t hit me blind-sided,” he said in an interview at his home.

The other Canaveral manager cited by investigators, also allegedly made sexually inappropriate comments to at least two employees. One of them told investigators she did not think that the comments were meant to harass her but that they made her feel “creepy and weird.”

That manager did not respond to calls left at his office and home. He first told investigators that one of the women he allegedly harassed was “delusional” and “not wrapped too tight.”

But he later said he “took full responsibility” if his remarks were interpreted as unprofessional.

88 Comments

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

04-11-12 Greenwire “Battle escalates over allegations of NPS misconduct

‘Good enough for government work’
To PEER executive director Jeff Ruch, the debate over the noise data is irrelevant. Even if NPS made mistakes in presenting the data — by not clearly marking the sound levels as estimates — it falls short of scientific misconduct, he said.

The Park Service has limited funds and limited time. The draft EIS is “good enough for government work,” he said.

“It’s a minor mistake. It doesn’t invalidate the larger product,” he said. “This is a game of academic gotcha that misses the broader point.”
Greenwire
3. INTERIOR:
Battle escalates over allegations of NPS misconduct
Emily Yehle, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Environmental groups are pushing back against allegations that the National Park Service falsified data in an effort to oust a California oyster farm from a wilderness area.

The Interior Department — which houses NPS — is looking into allegations that officials purposely misled the public by using 1995 data from New Jersey police boats to represent the noise coming from Drakes Bay Oyster Co. A table in the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) appears to imply the data were collected at the farm, and it misled a scientist who reviewed the document as part of a peer review Interior commissioned (Greenwire, March 27).

The controversy is the latest in a string of headaches for Interior over NPS research on Drakes Bay Oyster Co., which is fighting to renew its lease in a national wilderness area. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has closely followed the controversy, has since accused the service of building a “deceptive and potentially fraudulent” case against the company (E&ENews PM, March 29).

But Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin say the charges are overblown. They point to the fact that the EIS fully cites the sources of the noise data in its references, even if such clear citations are not on the table itself.

In a recent letter to Interior Scientific Integrity Officer Ralph Morgenweck, EAC executive director Amy Trainer calls the allegations “unfounded.”

“We are particularly concerned about the recent claims both because of the manner in which they have been politicized by Senator Feinstein, and, like previous ones, are baseless, unscientific, and distract from the real issue facing Secretary Salazar: whether to uphold long-standing national park laws and policies, or roll them back to allow private industry to commercialize the heart of a national park,” she wrote.

A Feinstein spokesman did not return a request for comment. But in her letter to Salazar last month, Feinstein referenced the repeated problems found with NPS research on the farm; that includes a 2011 report from Interior’s solicitor’s office that found park scientists mishandled evidence and acted improperly (Greenwire, March 23, 2011).

Guessing game
The mystery over how NPS came to its estimates lingers. Interior is refusing to detail how NPS extrapolated the sound levels of the farm’s equipment from the 1995 New Jersey study and a 2006 “Construction Noise Users Guide” from the Federal Highway Administration.

Most puzzling is the sound level for the farm’s oyster tumbler. Five items in the 2006 guide match the sound level attributed to the tumbler in the draft EIS: a concrete-mixer truck, a drill-rig truck, a front-end loader, a rivet buster and a ventilation fan.

None come close to the tumbler, a piece of equipment that uses a small electric motor to sort oysters. In her letter to Interior, Trainer suggests that a concrete mixer is the most likely substitute.

But she also presents a seemingly random hypothesis. NPS, she writes, could have taken the 85 decibels attributed to “all other equipment” in the 2006 users guide and then “conservatively decided to reduce the loudness attributed to the oyster tumbler” to get the 79 decibels cited in the draft EIS.

Trainer uses similar logic in her defense of the 71 decibels the draft EIS attributes to the oyster farm’s motorboats, the loudest of which has a 40 horsepower engine. The only number that matches in the New Jersey study — which is cited in the EIS as the source — is the sound level for a 1995 Kawasaki Jet Ski.

But in her letter, Trainer hypothesizes the Park Service instead based the loudness of the farm’s motorboats on the sound level for a boat with a 175 horsepower engine. That engine is far louder than those of the farm’s boats, and the New Jersey study measured its sound level at 81 decibels.

Trainer contends that NPS just took off 10 decibels to reach the 71 decibels that is attributed to the farm’s boats in the EIS.

When asked how she came to these calculations, Trainer said her group “took an objective, reasonable approach to consider what equipment the NPS was likely comparing to like.”

But Interior is keeping silent on how NPS actually came to its numbers, which are used in the EIS to make a variety of assertions. Among them is that the farm’s motorboats can be heard more than 1.3 miles away. The draft EIS also contends that the oyster tumbler — which sorts the shellfish with a far quieter engine than that of the boats — can be heard 2.3 miles away.

‘Good enough for government work’
To PEER executive director Jeff Ruch, the debate over the noise data is irrelevant. Even if NPS made mistakes in presenting the data — by not clearly marking the sound levels as estimates — it falls short of scientific misconduct, he said.

The Park Service has limited funds and limited time. The draft EIS is “good enough for government work,” he said.

“It’s a minor mistake. It doesn’t invalidate the larger product,” he said. “This is a game of academic gotcha that misses the broader point.”

That point, to environmental groups, is that the oyster farm sits in an area that Congress designated as wilderness decades ago. If Interior allows the company to stay, they contend that it would go against policy and set a precedent that could endanger wilderness areas throughout the country.

Indeed, the Park Service was poised to kick out the farm before Feinstein intervened in 2009, inserting language in the fiscal 2010 spending bill that explicitly allowed Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to grant the farm a 10-year renewal. The EIS process began after that.

Feinstein, Ruch said, “appears to be upset by the process her own legislation created.”

“This is not rocket science — motor boats and machinery make noise and this location, Drakes Estero, is supposed to be wilderness,” he said. “Senator Feinstein’s repeated personal interventions for this one company have become the very epitome of political interference with science to which she claims to be objecting.”

Ruch and Trainer have taken particular aim at Corey Goodman, a scientist who has long criticized NPS for its research on the oyster farm. Goodman became involved in the controversy when he gave expert testimony to the Marin County Board of Supervisors in 2007; since then, he has spent countless hours scrutinizing the Park Service’s research.

Goodman publicized the noise data issues last month, sending a letter to Salazar that requested an investigation into possible scientific misconduct.

In a recent interview, Goodman said Trainer’s letter responding to his allegations raised more questions than answers. The assertion that the sound levels in the EIS were the result of random calculations would be a more serious problem than his assumption that NPS based them off louder equipment.

“Whatever it is, it was a completely inappropriate number to pick that completely misrepresented what the engine sounds like and it clearly bamboozled the peer reviewer,” Goodman said.

Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher said the department is conducting a review of the allegations. The agency’s scientific integrity policy requires Interior to launch a preliminary review to determine whether such allegations are substantiated and thus necessitate a larger investigation.

But all sides of the controversial issue seem to agree to one thing: NPS should make it clear how they calculated the noise levels of the farm’s equipment.

“I do think it would help in the final EIS to list all of their assumptions and specify how these numbers came about,” Trainer said. “There’s room for improvement.”

 

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