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February 27, 2013

NOAA's retreat to 'Camelot'

Records spotlight $288,500 'workshop' agenda

Last May, a month after a special judicial master’s second report on misdeeds by NOAA enforcement lawyers had been delivered to the secretary of commerce, NOAA General Counsel Lois Schiffer led her national staff of 145 lawyers on a three day training program in Philadelphia at a cost of $288,500, according to documents released to the Times under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

The conference featured a self-understanding exercise led by vocational placement company to determine what roles in a fictional medieval kingdom the lawyers imagined themselves playing — “bishop,” “benevolent ruler,” “shepard,” “black knight,” “scientist,” “discoverer,” “merchant,” “prime minister,” “engineer-builder,” “dreamer-minstrel,” “white knight” and “doctor.”

The so-called “Kingdomality” training was invented and provided to NOAA’s legal staff by Career Management International from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the first day of the conference, based on an online questionnaire the NOAA lawyers completed before meeting in Philadelphia, according to the partial response to the Times’ FOIA last month.

Costing $2,500, the Kingdomality training describes the value of imagining living in medieval times for self awareness.

“With today’s diverse workforce, the corporate kingdom that acknowledges and nurtures these personality preferences could become an organization as successful as Camelot of old,” the placement company website explains.

At the time of the conference, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was in damage control mode after news reports beginning in the publications Government Executive and Politico reported that another arm of NOAA, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, had advertised for a magician as a motivational speaker for a June conference at NOAA’s general offices in Silver Spring, Md. That ad was posted on the day the Philadelphia conference began — and was withdrawn on its final day.

NOAA required the Times to use the FOIA to obtain information about the Philadelphia conference.

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