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OIG: National Park Service Director Skirted Ethics Office In Writing Book, Reprimanded

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NPS Director Jon Jarvis has been reprimanded for ignoring Interior Department ethics rules/NPS

An investigation has found that National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis intentionally skirted the Interior Department's Ethics Office to write a book, a Guidebook to American Values and Our National Parks, for a cooperating association contractually tied to the Park Service, an action that brought the director an official reprimand from top Interior Department officials, who also removed him from any dealings with the Park Service's ethics office for the rest of his career as director.

Furthermore, Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor ordered Director Jarvis to receive monthly ethics training for the rest of his tenure. 

"I am also concerned about the attitude the (investigation) demonstrates Director Jarvis exhibited toward important Departmental institutions such as the Ethics Office, the Office of the Solicitor, and the Office of the Secretary," Deputy Secretary Connor wrote in a letter (attached below) to Mary L. Kendall, deputy inspector general for the department.

In a short statement Thursday evening the director said, "I regret that I did not seek guidance on the most appropriate path forward to publish this book. I wrote the book to inspire and engage more Americans in our national parks, particularly during the National Park Service's centennial year. I consider it a good lesson learned and will ask for guidance if and when similar situations arise in the future."

Interior's Office of Inspector General began looking into the matter last June after being alerted to the book published by Eastern National, a cooperating association that has been working with national parks for 50 years At issue was "whether Jarvis used his public office for private gain by seeking a book deal with Eastern National and whether he misused any U.S. Government resources in the process."

Ethics Office guidelines specifically state that government employees who want to do outside work with any business or organization seeking to do business with the Interior Department must first gain approval from the Ethics Office, regardless of whether there's payment involved. Additionally, an attorney in the Ethics Office said "that even if Jarvis was not personally receiving money from the sale of the book, having his name associated with it could create the appearance that he was using his official position for personal gain."

The investigation also showed that Director Jarvis approached Eastern National with the idea, but that he had told Interior Secretary Jewell that Eastern National had asked him to write the book. It also showed that Eastern National Chief Executive Officer George Minnucci, after discussing the project on the phone with the director, later wrote him an email worded as if the idea was his. In his interview with OIG staff, Mr. Minnucci said Director Jarvis had not asked him to word his email in such a way, but rather he did so because "he wanted his staff to think the book was his idea and that it was 'a CEO decision.'”

The OIG report (attached below) stated that Director Jarvis said he "did not consult with the Ethics Office on the book because doing so would have taken too long, and with NPS’ centennial approaching, the book would be 'really powerful.'”

"Jarvis explained that he was frustrated with the Ethics Office for not being able to approve 'very, very simple things,'" the report stated. "As an example, he explained that a thank-you letter to a donor from him and the Foundation took 6 weeks for the office to approve, which led him to believe that approving the book was going to be a problem."

In one interview with investigators, Director Jarvis said he wasn't afraid of taking chances, such as failing to clear the project with the Ethics Office.

I think I knew going into this there was a certain amount of risk. I’ve never been afraid of a risk. . . . I’ve gotten my ass in trouble many, many, many times in the Park Service by . . . not necessarily getting permission . . . I’ve always pushed the envelope. . . . And I felt that this values analysis . . . could be a very, very powerful tool to not only connect to the next generation but to resonate across political spectrums. 

“And from my view, from my experience, in the ethics world, having been an SES [Senior Executive Service employee] for almost a decade, I did not feel like I was violating any ethics issues because I set this up [with] no personal benefit, nothing gained for me personally," he continued. "What I was trying to prevent is having it edited."

While Director Jarvis did not seek to be paid for the book, and directed that any royalties go to the National Park Foundation, there was concern among some Interior officials that he retained the copyright to the title and allowed the use of the Park Service arrowhead logo on the cover and his title as Park Service director in places, "giving the appearance of Government endorsement."

In the end, it doesn't appear as if there will be any royalties for anyone. Eastern National officials told OIG investigators that while it had cost them $11,000-$12,000 to print the $7.95 book, they had only sold a little more than 200 copies and they didn't expect to make their investment back.

The investigation determined that Director Jarvis used his government iPad to write the manuscript; while he claimed to have worked on it outside office hours, the investigation determined that "it appears" there were at least nine occasions when Director Jarvis worked on it or corresponded with Eastern National officials concerning the book "on weekdays when he was not on leave and Government offices were open."

Comments

My father used to tell me that a person of strong character understands that they may be punished for doing right, if others don't want right done. Director Jarvis is a man of strong character. We need more like him in government, but these kinds of things are driving good people out of government.


Elected officials have done far worse and received nothing but a slap on the hand.      So Director Jarvis wrote a book about the National Park System, whoopie.   


I am not sure I agree with the NPS Director on this issue. Following the approved ethical guidelines of an agency is extremely important, more so at the top management levels. It not only sets the standards of conduct in the work place, but gives confidence to both employees and the citizens that things are being done by the rules all must follow. I know it often times is frustrating to public service officials, something they think something important is being stonewalled, or at least that maybe the impression, but without these rules there is chaos. I agree that others have done far worse, particularly in the political arena, but that is no excuse. No, I am with the ethics office on this one. 


A failure of leadership - plain and simple.  Position without performance.  How can any leader serve the organization as a model for ethical behavior, then advocate breaking the rules of the organization when the outcome is simply important to him?  Leadership is founded in ethical credibilty.  Although this issue may appear minor, it should be examined as part of a larger pattern of both individual failings and justifications, as well as, a pattern of repeated organizational scandal, intentional waste, fraud and abuse and a massive abuse of power.  Remember, it is under this man's leadership that his own employees have expressed a constantly decending level of confidence in its leadership.  In short, it is a scandal to have this man leading this great organization during its centennial.  


but very disappointed in the lack of leadership this shows.  Shameful.


You're right, sir. The big issue isn't him writing a book. As with Nixon, the issue is the cover-up, of trying to hide facts and being less than candid about it. Not to mention the misuse of government equipment and government time. Very tough to explain the rules to a new seasonal employee, then have them see this. Tougher, still, to fire an employee for doing the same thing the Director did. I don't care about the book, I care about bending the rules. And of course, the next question has to be -- so, you broke the rules on this, and tried to be sneaky on this, what else have you been hiding? Where else did you break the rules?

 


If the government was funding our NPS correctly then maybe he wouldn't have did what he did for the benefit of the NPS. Maybe he would have done this for his own benefit?  What he did was wrong but what our Government does is worse!


A serious "ethics" issue warranting an Office of Inspector General investigation?  Get real.  This is a silly, inane story about a silly, inane issue based upon silly inane charges. How many taxdollars were wasted on this fool's errand. Come on, NP Traveler:  Do some real investigative journalism about real Park Service issues. 


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