Canaveral Seashore Screw-up Parade Marches On
Third Critical Inspector General Report Finds Problems Confirmed in First
Washington, DC — An official investigation has uncovered procurement violations, including improper evasion of competitive bidding, at Canaveral National Seashore, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This is the third negative report issued by the Interior Office of Inspector General (IG) in the past five years and confirms some of the very same problems identified in its first report of 2012.
A summary of the latest report first appeared as part of a compendium of IG investigations over the past half year and concludes that the park violated federal acquisition rules “by making split purchases with Government credit cards, which exceeded the micropurchase thresholds, to avoid fair and open contracting procedures.” As a result, lower bidders for building a new boardwalk and selling vehicle equipment were not sought, meaning that taxpayers may have overpaid for this work.
These findings echo a 2012 IG report which found that the park, which occupies a Florida barrier island across a lagoon from the Kennedy Space Center, was then also illegally shrinking the size of orders (split purchases) to bypass competitive bidding requirements. That earlier report also detailed misappropriation of funds, nepotism and other misconduct.
“While anyone can make a mistake, making the same mistake twice suggests a deliberate style of management by malfeasance,” stated PEER Executive Jeff Ruch, who today sent a letter to the National Park Service urging that Myrna Palfrey, who has remained as Canaveral National Seashore Superintendent during this entire span, be removed from that position. “The only purposeful action that this superintendent took was to punish the whistleblower who reported the violations.”
That whistleblower, Dr. Candace Carter, last year won a ruling by the Merit Systems Protection Board, the federal civil service court system, that she had improperly been subjected to assault, harassment and adverse personnel actions in retaliation for contacting the IG. The judge in her ruling found the superintendent was not a believable witness, pointing out that “Palfrey failed to tell the truth on more than one occasion…and I have no confidence that she would be any more honest or forthright.”
To compound matters, the IG found in a separate November 23, 2015 report that the park’s chief ranger committed misconduct “unbecoming of an NPS law enforcement manger” by posting derogative comments to news articles about Dr. Carter’s whistleblower victory.
Perhaps tolerance of patterns of misconduct at Canaveral Seashore is not surprising inside a Park suffering from a series of ethics scandals. Back in 2012, the IG referred its Canaveral report personally to NPS Jon Jarvis but received no indication he would take any action or even acknowledge the referral. Just days ago, on May 27, 2016, Jarvis issued an all-employee email apology for his own ethical violations relating to fundraising. While Jarvis stays in his job, he has been stripped of ethics-related responsibilities.
“When the director of an agency flouts rules, lies about it and then brags that it shows he is a ‘risk-taker’, why should we expect park managers to act responsibly?” asked Ruch, pointing out that Jarvis’ late May apology also flowed from an IG investigation back in February. “The National Park Service is like the proverbial fish rotting from the head.”