Accountability & the Park Service – Like Oil and Water

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Accountability & the Park Service – Like Oil and Water

Canaveral Seashore Probe Finds Fraud, Nepotism & Mismanagement but No Action

Washington, DC — After an official investigation uncovered repeated contracting violations, nepotism, apparent misappropriation of funds and other misconduct at a national park, the Director of the National Park Service declined to take any corrective or disciplinary action, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This sequence reflects the agency pattern of ignoring dysfunction and violations by NPS managers until problems are publicly exposed.

Canaveral National Seashore is a barrier island off the east coast of Florida facing the Kennedy Space Center across Mosquito Lagoon. In November 2012, an investigation by the Interior Office of Inspector General (IG) confirmed whistleblower allegations of numerous and wide-ranging violations, including –

  • Nepotism in both hiring and award of contracts;
  • Illegally shrinking the size of orders (“split purchases”) in order to evade competitive bidding requirements; and
  • Hiring someone with a criminal record “in a cashier’s role handling money.”

The IG report concludes that it “uncovered procurement and ethical violations, as well as an overall sense of mismanagement at the park.” It adds that these problems “could be traced to Superintendent Myrna Palfrey’s inability to effectively supervise her employees” and cites other concerns about her, including –

  • Running up bills in excess of $800 a month for a cell phone that is supposed to be limited to official work. By contrast, other employees’ cell bills averaged around $30 a month;
  • Disregarding an IG request not to warn her employees about their probe and then lying about it (exhibiting a “lack of candor” in the report wording) when confronted with evidence she had; and
  • Admitting she “hadn’t done anything” to correct contracting violations or even inquire about their nature after she was briefed by the IG despite claiming that she “had a contracting background.” Instead, Palfrey claimed complaints leading to the investigation “were racially based” from a “small group of White Caucasians.”

The IG referred the case to the U.S. Attorney for prosecution but that office declined to bring criminal charges. On November 14, 2012, the IG sent the matter to NPS Director Jon Jarvis for “administrative action deemed appropriate” together with an “Accountability Form” for indicating whether disciplinary action had been taken or money recovered. Jarvis did not respond. On June 7, 2013, the IG sent Jarvis another notice that it was “closing these case files with a non-responsive designation.”

“The current leadership of the Park Service cultivates a culture of corruption where even gross managerial misconduct is overlooked in return for loyalty,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to a string of cases where flagrant violations were not acted upon until they reached the public’s attention. “By contrast, the Park Service has no tolerance for whistleblowers and will rabidly pursue the pettiest of violations to punish perceived dissidents.”


Read the IG report

See the IG referral to Jarvis and the Accountability Form

View IG non-responsive notice

Phone: 202-265-7337

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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