GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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August 5, 2010

Ousted fish cop still on NOAA payroll

Lawmakers question why

The long suspected but closely guarded secret that ousted federal fisheries police chief Dale J. Jones remains on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration payroll was pried from the agency this week by a subpoena threat and another standoff with congressmen representing Massachusetts' fishing cities.

Jones, removed as director of NOAA law enforcement in April after an investigation found his office was using excessive fines levied on fishermen as a slush fund, "is currently employed by NOAA, and we are considering reassigning him to an appropriate position," the agency said Thursday. It was NOAA's first public acknowledgement of Jones since his replacement around four months ago.

But why Jones is still on the federal payroll, what he is doing now and what an "appropriate position" is for the former head of a scandalized police force, NOAA still won't say.

Despite allegations contained in the inspector general's report of document shredding by law enforcement staff as well as vindictive prosecution, NOAA has said reform of its law enforcement division will not include "re-examining specific cases or data mentioned in the report or looking at the history of our offices."

The policy of not looking back has been questioned by many on the East Coast, including Massachusetts Congressmen Barney Frank and John Tierney, who represent the fishing ports of New Bedford and Gloucester, respectively. They met last week with NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco on a series of fisheries issues days before a scheduled "summit" in Washington on fisheries law enforcement.

Both congressmen Thursday told the Times the meeting did not go well.

"The result was very unsatisfactory," Frank said of Lubchenco's response to his long-standing push for NOAA to address past law enforcement abuses against fishermen, as well as provide relief from lowered catch limits for choke stocks under sector fisheries management.

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