Political Fixer Named Acting Park Service Chief

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For Immediate Release: Jan 24, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Official Facilitating Dan Snyder Illegal C&O Canal Logging Returns in Top Spot

Washington, DC — The National Park Service has a new acting director with a dubious record. The Trump administration has named Dan Smith, an official reprimanded for engineering illegal removal of Park Service trees by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to improve the Potomac view from his mansion’s ballroom, to lead the National Park Service (NPS), according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

In an all-employee message today, Dan Smith announced that after emerging from retirement just two weeks prior he is now serving as acting NPS Director. Mike Reynolds, who had filled in as agency head, is the new superintendent of Yosemite National Park

A January 2006 report from Interior’s Office of Inspector General (IG) found that Smith, while special assistant to the NPS Director, “inappropriately used his position to apply pressure and circumvent NPS procedures on Mr. Snyder’s behalf.” The IG also concluded that Smith “contradicted himself” in interviews with investigators, gave an “account [that] could not be corroborated”, and his lack of candor “prolonged” its investigation “and unnecessarily cost the government additional time and monies.”

The IG referred the matter to the Fraud and Public Corruption unit of the U.S. Attorney, which declined prosecution. Smith reportedly received a reprimand and transferred to become Superintendent of Colonial National Historical Park, from which position he retired in 2015.

“After spouting hot air about ethics, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has disinterred a most disreputable operative to lead a troubled Park Service,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting Daniel Snyder’s strong political support for Donald Trump, including a $1 million contribution to his inauguration and his interest in the RFK Stadium site on property owned by the Park Service. “This appointment has the optics of a political payback.”

The IG investigation stemmed from a whistleblower report from C&O Canal Chief Ranger Robert Danno. During the subsequent 9 years, NPS officials subjected Danno to a ceaseless campaign of harassment that finally ended in a settlement mediated through PEER by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

A recent survey of NPS and other Interior employees indicated not only high levels of sexual and other harassment but also disturbingly deep experience in, and expectation of, management reprisal.

“As a high-level official, Dan Smith betrayed Park Service resources, violated laws and procedures, and tried to cover up his actions,” added Ruch, arguing that his return makes pledges by Zinke and his top deputies to change Park Service culture ring hollow. “Rather than transform a dysfunctional Park Service culture of corruption and retaliation, Secretary Zinke seems set on doubling down to reinforce it.”


See Smith’s announcement

Read the IG report

Look at ingrained retaliatory culture in Park Service and Interior agencies

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