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Watchdog: Park Service management not held to same standard

July 5, 2017 (Photo Credit: National Parks Service)
The acting National Park Service Director Michael Reynolds has not been following up on his previous pledge to “fundamentally change the culture of the National Park Service,” according to independent watchdog group  contends Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Two individuals in particular are getting attention — Mike Caldwell and Myrna Palfrey.

Mike Caldwell had been found guilty of submitting fake travel vouchers amounting to nearly $18,000 while he was acting as the director of NPS Northeast.

“In the Park Service, immunity for its managers appears immutable,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a release. He continued, saying that the only saving grace was that Caldwell had not been placed in charge of procurement and that “lower-level employees” would not get away with these actions.

Myrna Palfrey’s case was a bit more extreme. Following scathing reports from the inspector general, a sexual harassment scandal and a congressional hearing, Palfrey was temporarily reassigned to serve as special assistant for the Southeast Regional director where she would perform her duties from home. However, she has, within the past month, returned to her duties as superintendent of the Canaveral National Seashore area.

The lack of disciplinary actions taken against managers in the NPS only serves to reinforce perceptions of a biased hierarchy within the system, according to PEER. However, according to the release, there are many “honest dedicated park superintendents and other managers who suffer being tarred by this brush.” Ruch said, pointing out that the positions of NPS director and senior Interior official remain empty. “The Park Service desperately needs a new broom to sweep its leadership ranks clean.”

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