Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Park Service leaders break rules but skate by

by Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter

Just before becoming superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park, Dave Uberuaga sold his home to the head of a concession company operating in the park for three times its assessed price and then repeatedly failed to disclose the deal.

The Interior Department inspector general uncovered the wrongdoing by 2008. But instead of being demoted, Uberuaga was named superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park in 2011.

Since then, a scandal has exploded over a 15-year pattern of sexual harassment and workplace hostility at the Grand Canyon, which Uberuaga had done little to stamp out. And the park's aging water systems have continued to crumble while employees who attempted to fix them were forced out.

NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis last month decided a change in leadership at the park was necessary -- but offered Uberuaga a new position in Washington, D.C. He opted to retire instead.
Uberuaga's troubled tenure is just one example of the management failures that plague the 100-year-old National Park Service, critics say. The problems, they argue, stem from both flawed hiring practices and, more importantly, a lack of accountability that is pervasive throughout the agency -- up to and including Jarvis.

...The director is far from the only Park Service official to violate agency policies and keep his job. More than a dozen NPS employees singled out in publicly released IG reports or internal investigations of park mismanagement during Jarvis' time in office are still employed at the agency, according to the agency's online directory.

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