If the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave a wit about its own credibility, or took the investigation and findings of the federal Inspector General's office seriously, NOAA enforcement officials would at least suspend so-called "criminal investigator" Susan Williams until allegations against her are cleared.
Anyone who would craft a misleading affidavit in an attempt coax a bogus search warrant out of an administrative law judge, after all, has no place working in any kind of law enforcement. And that, according to a sworn deposition as part of the IG's probe, is what Williams and other NOAA higher-ups did in their obsessive push to find something wrong at the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction.
But NOAA enforcement, as we've seen all too often, has no interest whatsoever in justice, no interest in reforming the obvious wrongs cited throughout the report of Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser.
NOAA chief administrator Jane Lubchenco and her enforcement henchmen are concerned only with maintaining the status quo, and somehow just making these true cases of wrongdoing just go away.
There is frankly no other way to interpret NOAA's move to transfer Williams from her position in the agency's Boston/Chelsea office to one in New Bedford. And New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang has every right to be hopping mad over the move — which he is.
Williams was involved in the now infamous 2009 prosecution of the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction, when armed NOAA enforcement agents ultimately raided it, bringing a 59-count complaint and trying to impose a fine of $335,200 and 120-day shutdown order.
The various complaints were settled before trial, with the fine reduced to $85,000 — and with no admission of guilt on the auction's part. And along the way, we learned that NOAA agents made an unauthorized, after-hours forced entry into the auction building, according to a report from Gloucester police.
Now, we know that the IG's findings included a deposition by Special Agent Michael R. Henry late last year, and he testified under the oath that Williams and her colleagues had participated in drafting a misleading affidavit to obtain a search warrant that led to the raid.
If his testimony is confirmed, this is corruption coming from the top. It would merit very harsh sanctions. Instead, NOAA is simply sliding Williams sideways — and obviously letting her stay on a job, working within a justice system she has clearly betrayed.
Lang is not exaggerating when he called the transfer "ill-advised," "uninformed," "insensitive" and "retaliatory" in an interview with the New Bedford Standard-Times.
But, sadly, this is just the continuation of a pattern.
Dale Jones, former director of federal fishing law enforcement, was ousted last spring after Zinser and a subsequent audit found that he had presided over wildly disproportionate enforcement against New England fishermen, extensive misuse of government funds and document shredding while Zinser was actively investigating his department.
Yet, after he was removed from his post, Jones continued to collect his $158,500 salary. As Congressman Barney Frank put it, "Apparently the reward for highly questionable actions (at NOAA) is a paid vacation."
In October, Lubchenco announced that Jones had been reassigned as a fisheries program specialist, a job that comes with a salary of $155,000.
She also announced that Charles Juliand, the senior attorney for enforcement and litigation in NOAA's Gloucester-based Northeast headquarters, had been reassigned to work on matters related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
When Zinser's first report on these outrages was delivered last February. Lubchenco declared, "I own the problem, and I intend to fix it."
No, she doesn't. She intends to perpetuate it. And each time she does, NOAA's credibility — already shredded as badly as Jones' documents — sinks even deeper.
One can only wonder where this absolute mockery by Lubchenco and NOAA enforcement personnel of the Inspector General's report and the American taxpayer will end.
Once again, it's painfully obvious that an independent special prosecutor should be summoned to the case by our congressional leaders as soon as the new session begins.
Even that doesn't seem soon enough.