You are here

Seasonal Rangers Who Said They Lost Jobs For Blowing The Whistle Win Their Case


Bruce and Sara Schundler, who alleged they lost their seasonal jobs as rangers at Mesa Verde National Park for bringing attention to suspect spending by the park's former superintendent, have been vindicated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

In a ruling last week, the OSC staff's investigation revealed that the couple was not rehired at Mesa Verde "in part because of their perceived whistleblowing."

The couple's struggles to investigate the spending habits of the former superintendent led to their decision to launch a website to chronicle their efforts, which involved a long and evasive process through the Freedom of Information Act procedures.

Bruce Schundler was subjected to a correspondence-heavy, administrative maze since requesting information on Mesa Verde's fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2008 budgets, the travels of its superintendent, and the number of unfilled vacancies at the park. Mesa Verde officials initially put off his first requests for the information, saying the staff was too busy to comply immediately

In its ruling, the OSC noted that the Schundlers "had spotless work records at Mesa Verde National Park..." In raising concerns about the then-superintendent's spending habits, they alleged that he had used National Park Service funds "to travel excessively to conferences and seminars, in support of a private company," the OSC finding noted.

"They filed Freedom of Information Act requests for information on the matter and also filed a complaint with the Inspector General. The (Office of Inspector General's) report found that the park superintendent’s actions 'created the appearance of a conflict of interest,'" the OSC noted. "The following season, the couple was tentatively offered seasonal park ranger positions again, only to see the offer rescinded.

"The OSC investigation showed that Mesa Verde management decided not to rehire the couple in part because of their perceived whistleblowing."

After the OSC investigated the matter, the Park Service "agreed to provide the couple with seasonal work at another national park of their choosing and to reimburse them for expenses incurred in anticipation of the rescinded rehiring."

“I’m pleased that the National Park Service corrected the actions its employees took against these park rangers,” said OSC Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner. “All federal employees have the right to blow the whistle on perceived wrongdoing without fear or retaliation.”


Congratulations to the Schundler's for their perserverance and dedication to improving the NPS, an agency whose management often deserves the low rankings it has consistently received in annual employee surveys.

Five years is almost warp speed for NPS malfeasance cases. Teresa Chambers waited seven years and Robert Danno almost ten years for 'justice'; I believe Billy Malone is still waiting. These types of cases are much more common than most NPS true-believers will admit. I saw even permanent whistleblowers lose their jobs and part of their retirement due to management retaliation. Others were denied deserved promotions and/or transferred to undesirable duty stations far from their families.

Dont miss their webpages on NPS non-transparency and Regional Office bloat:

tahoma, thank you for an excellent post. I must agree, the delays, political pandering, etc. involved in these cases is quite disturbing. Much thanks to Chief Chambers, Mr. Bruno, Mr. Schundler and others for their efforts.

But a large chunk of this unfortunate story is missing. What happened with their complaints? Were their charges investigated or not? If they were investigated, what were the findings?

And it only took seven years hundreds of hours of work and I'm sure intense emotional distress to get to this point.

I am pleased to see the federal bureaucracy finally admit what was obvious but what about punishment for the offenders?

Those who carried out the persecution of Rob Danno still hold high positions of trust and responsibility in the NPS as I am sure those who did this to Bruce and Sara will.

Why is it that when NPS leadership engages in this kind of serious misconduct they tend to fall upwards while "seasonal" employees can get black listed and prevented from working in their chosen profession for virtually any reason or no reason at all.

For example there is one recently named NPS superintendent who has a track record, known to management, of engaging in improper relationships with young women he directly supervised but still gets promoted while at the same time a seasonal who talks openly about problems is treated as a bigger problem than the actual problems.

A serious question I'd love to hear addressed: what is it in the psychology of so many in NPS management that they feel the need to go after people like Bruce Schundler with such vigor?

My theory is that NPS leaders, especially superintendents, must feel like they are constantly walking a tight rope. Could it be that there are so many rules and regulations that if they were all followed many parks couldn't even open there doors? Given this, might it be that NPS leaders feel like they are constantly in danger? Apparently the last thing they want is someone inside the tent, like Bruce, who is intelligent enough, experienced enough, to see the shandy stuff that is going on? The vindictiveness with which they go after people like this is revealing I think of how threatened and insecure NPS leaders must feel and of how the leadership looks out for one another at the expense of those at the bottom.

For example,the extent to which parks go these days to avoid paying benefits to employees is a system they have to know is unsustainable. If the crunchy granola types who love to castigate companies like Wallmart knew that the NPS engages in worse labor abuses what would happen? That has got to be scary to the leadership that has built this house of cards. Just as I am sure it was scary to the superintendent at Mesa Verde to have it out in the public that he had spent $400,000 on travel in one year.

If NPS management would only devote half the attention to purging the organization of the deadwood that is allowed to carry on in the ranks year after year, as they devote to going after folks like Bruce Schundler, Rob Danno, Frank Scaturro, Billy Malone, and Teresa Chambers our parks would be far better off and the NPS would be a much nicer place to work.

Agree Lee, first, much thanks to the Schundler's for their heroic effort. and thanks to tahoma and others, I have referenced the Schundler's website. It is extremely informative. I also found the Perpetual seasonal comments interesting. The resistance to posting and or responding to FOI requests is a serious issue. I know that when I did budgeting in my position with the NPS, I posted it on the door of my office. That is the way it should be, it is public money and the citizens have right to see where it is spent, or at least they should. Through, I almost always disagree with ECs posts, he is right about one thing, human nature is a complex issue, often times we are somewhat self serving in the performance of our duties and in some cases the reality is you have an employee has little choice. It pays to "get along and go along", be it in the governmental or private sector. You pay a price when you do not. Traveler, it would be interesting to note the consequences, if any, to the malfeasance practiced on the Schundlers, Billy Malone, etc., if any. The Schunder's case a classic example, with, unfortunately to many others, Billy Malone, Todd Bruno, well the list goes on.

We are in a NPS discussion site, discussing the NPS, but I would caution thos NPS-is-always-wrong folks that this nonsense happens everywhere. Congress, Wall Street, Hollywood, or the K-mart in Winnemucca. Don't ask "why do park superintendants do this or get away with that?" Instead ask "why do people in positions of power...?"

I'm sorry Rick, but I must respectfully disagree. It is apparent that there is a disproportionate amount of malfeasance and vindictiveness on behalf of the upper echelon NPS and it is increasingly well documented. And it comes from the top and Jarvis needs to be held accountable for perpetuating this culture. It is time for congress to get involved and clean house at the NPS. Then the hard working, rank and file can once again do their duties without fear of this type of retribution. I know that corruption exists in any human endeavor but this agency stinks more and more each day. I have personal experience with it in the Smokies. Our present and fortunately outgoing Superintendent has grossly inappropriate relationships with concessionaires and is an outright liar. Apparently that is a skill set necessary for advancement in the NPS. It is time someone stood up and put a stop to it for good and restore the reputation of what was once, "America's best idea."

We the citizens deserve better but there is shockingly little oversight of the bureau.

Smokies, I'll respectfully disagree with you and heartily endorse Rick's comment. I'll also have to agree (unfortunately) with Perpetual's comments about the tight rope.

And, unfortunately, it is all too true in virtually all human activities. There will always be some people who will find the courage to stand up for what's right, but they seem to be becoming an endangered species today. Others will cave in to pressure. Still others will allow greed to take over.

Then again, maybe nothing really has changed. History as far back as history goes is filled with similar stories from all over the world.

All any of us can do is look to ourselves and ask frequently, "Have I done any real good today?"

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide