The California driving misadventures of Commerce Secretary John Bryson two weekends ago and his subsequent paid leave of absence may have given the department and its renegade subsidiary, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, another reason to sit on a followup report from special investigator Charles B. Swartwood III, who has further examined NOAA enforcement wrongdoing against the fishermen of Gloucester and other New England ports.
And if Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank, stepping in as acting Commerce chief, wants to follow Bryson's lead, she will do absolutely nothing. Since taking the Commerce reins last year, Bryson has not only been lax in taking up Swartwood's report, which he held for at least a month and stems from 60 cases studies beyond the extremely damning 2010 Inspector General's findings; he's also followed NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco's contemptible lead in ignoring a disaster declaration request filed last November from Gov. Deval Patrick, whose call had the backing of U.S. Sen. John Kerry and others.
Blank should, however, take her acting role seriously enough to release Swartwood's report and finally move to address the excessive enforcement and mismanagement issues that have made Lubchenco's NOAA an increasingly dysfunctional joke, from its fishery follies to a weather financial scam.
No one expects Swartwood's report to be pretty. But if it is to lead to more reparations to fishermen, another Cabinet-level apology for malfeasance, and perhaps — dare we hope — the housecleaning this agency needs, it's best to start now.
Keeping this report under wraps won't make it — or NOAA enforcement's misconduct — go away.