Washington, DC -- The National Park Service has been deliberately dodging attempts to account for how it spends its budget, according to minutes of an internal planning meeting released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
At a Task Force meeting on July 18, 2002, top agency managers plotted how they could create new law enforcement programs without having to account for the source of the funds. The meeting minutes contain the following entries attributed to top agency managers:
- "The challenge to NPS is members of Congress with good memories. They remember and look where the money they gave us last time went." Don Murphy, Deputy Director for External Affairs
- "They [Congress] do not trust us. We have the ability to track money, we just don't do it." Richard Ring, Associate Director for Administration
- "We know that we cannot pay for what we need. Any budget officer can do anything. Some things are taken off the top such as medicals (sic) and maybe we could do something like that." Major Michael Fogarty, U.S. Park Police
In 2003, Congress appropriated additional funds for Park Service law enforcement, with a portion earmarked for the U.S. Park Police. When then-Chief Teresa Chambers found that these new funds were diverted from the Park Police budget, she protested both internally and to Congressional staff. Last month, the Park Service fired Chambers citing her admission of un-funded safety and security needs to the Washington Post.
The Park Service, despite an increase in funds, has cut back staff and visitor services in several major parks in 2004. The Park Service has also resisted an accounting of where the additional monies went.
"The Park Service leadership is cooking the books like a public sector Enron," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is engaged in the legal fight to restore U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers; her case comes to hearing next month. "Congressional staff is either taken in by this budgetary shell game or are party to the flim-flam."