Canaveral Seashore Whistleblower Vindicated, Again
National Park Leaders Dissemble as New Probe Opens into Repeat Violations
Washington, DC — The National Park Service employee who reported rafts of contracting violations, misappropriations and nepotism, among other misconduct, at Canaveral National Seashore has won a federal whistleblower retaliation ruling against the park, according to the decision posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Rather than learn from their mistakes, however, park officials have continued the same apparently illegal procurement practices, triggering yet another investigation from the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The Merit Systems Protection Board, the federal civil service court system, found that Dr. Candace Carter, a Biological Science Technician, was subjected to assault, a pattern of harassment and adverse personnel actions in retaliation for reporting these violations to the OIG, which confirmed her disclosures in a 2012 investigation. The December 3rd MSPB ruling became final on January 7, 2015 as the agency declined to appeal. Findings by Judge Pamela Jackson were scathing, particularly as to the credibility of Canaveral National Seashore Superintendent Myrna Palfrey:
- “I am, frankly, astounded by the agency’s representations and arguments.”
- “I, however, was not impressed by Palfrey’s denial. I note, as concluded by the OIG, that Palfrey failed to tell the truth on more than one occasion during the OIG investigation, and I have no confidence that she would be any more honest or forthright before the Board. I, therefore, did not credit her declaration of ‘no knowledge.’”
“Unfortunately in today’s Park Service, superintendents are allowed to prevaricate without consequence,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting Park Service Director Jon Jarvis has been on notice about the array of problems at Canaveral Seashore for years but has taken no action. “Here, a national park has not only authorized violations of law but its management then approved attacks against the public servant who reported them – all at taxpayer expense.”
In fact, the OIG formally claimed that Director Jarvis was “non-responsive” to repeated requests to indicate what, if any, action he would take. A senior Park Service official claimed that the agency had “sent a written response to” the OIG on February 24, 2014 but the OIG affirmed in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that it had not seen any such document.
This October, Dr. Carter informed the OIG that procurement violations were continuing at Canaveral Seashore. Later that month, the OIG confirmed that it had “opened an investigation into this matter.”
“While it’s astounding that this park stumbles over something as routine as procurement rules, it springs from Canaveral National Seashore suffering from a corrupt culture,” said Carter. “Unfortunately it is not limited to this park, there appears to be a sick pattern in the Park Service of first failing to hold people accountable for wrongdoing and dishonesty and then rabidly pursuing those who actually stand up for ethical behavior.”
In her MSPB challenge, Dr. Carter was represented by Kirby Smith of the Vaughn Law Firm in Decatur, Georgia.