Congresswoman Jackie Speier calls on Inspector General to investigate personal email use and collusion with special interest groups by National Park Service GGNRA employees
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) on Tuesday announced that she has called upon the Department of the Interior Inspector General to conduct a thorough and public inquiry into improper and potentially illegal actions by National Park Services employees at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), where a National Park Service employee used a personal email account to hide deliberate collaborations with special interest groups opposed to off-leash dog walking within the GGNRA.
“I am shocked, but unfortunately not surprised to find out the leadership of the GGNRA conspired to mobilize opposition to counter the voices of citizens with whom they disagreed. The emails, uncovered through the FOIA process, reveal that the personal email account of a high-ranking NPS GGNRA employee was used to deliberately hide a preordained decision to orchestrate a campaign to mobilize citizens opposed to off-leash dog areas. Their actions corrupted what should have been a fair and impartial public process. That is why today I called on the Inspector General to immediately, fully, and openly investigate this breach of the public’s trust. I also am calling on the NPS to rescind the Dog Management Plan because of the tainted process,” said Rep. Jackie Speier.
In late December 2016, as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, NPS learned that a former employee had used a personal email account for official communications related to the Dog Management Plan planning process. These emails, which were released to the public today, clearly show that this employee was using his personal email to inappropriately coordinate with special interest groups. Examples, which are attached to this press release, include:
1. The employee sent documents to advocacy groups, and told them to respond only to his home email address. The employee marked this correspondence CONFIDENTIAL.
2. The employee solicited particular viewpoints to submit public comments.
3. The employee may have engaged in prohibited grassroots lobbying by advising advocacy groups on how to communication with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
4. The employee coordinated with groups on their advocacy materials.
5. The employee advised advocacy groups on media strategy.
The NPS has stated that it will conduct an “independent inquiry” into whether this personal email was used in a manner that is not consistent with applicable laws and policies, and if so, whether its use affected the planning and rulemaking processes. Rep. Speier has called on the IG to conduct an independent review because an internal inquiry staffed by NPS employees cannot be truly independent as the NPS claims.