GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

February 21, 2011

Shredding report shows NOAA chief as obstructionist

If anyone still clings to the notion that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco has any interest in cleaning up the sludge and the scum that have overrun her agency — or still thinks she's qualified to head a federal agency that must be accountable to Congress and America's taxpayers — the last shreds of those hopes have finally been dashed.

The remnants of Lubchenco's credibility went down the drain last week with confirmation that Inspector General Todd Zinser — in documents obtained by the Times — notified Lubchenco that the shredding operation carried out by former NOAA enforcement police chief Dale Jones and his henchmen was hardly the routine house-cleaning purge NOAA had claimed, but rather an effort that "implicates that it was done to conceal information from the (inspector general)," Zinser wrote,

"Such office-wide shredding was not a routine function for the Office of Law Enforcement," he found, noting that it destroyed 75 percent to 80 percent of the files in Jones' office. "Rather," the inspector general added, "the director and deputy director (Mark Spurrier) told us this was the first such exercise in their 10-plus years with (NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement)."

When did Lubchenco know this, and how did she respond?

On April 2, 2010, according to Zinser's correspondence. And that was six months before Lubchenco assigned Jones — by then, out of his police post — to a new position as a "fisheries program specialist," where he's "specializing" on work in the Gulf of Mexico, at an annual salary of $152,000.

That's not quite the $155,000 he was earning in the heydays of 2009 and earlier, when he and his rogue agents were handing out obscene and excessive fines to fishermen and using an after-hours break-in and other such tactics in their wrongful bid to shut down the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction.

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