Late last October, it was announced that Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latschar was going to retire to assume the presidency of the Gettysburg Foundation at a major salary increase. I seriously questioned the ethics of this job move in a couple of posts here. Kevin Levin disagreed with me in a comment to his post, finding nothing wrong with the ethics of the situation.
Well, as the following press release from the National Park Service plainly demonstrates, there was something fishy about this situation after all. After being reined in by the NPS ethics people, who finally woke up and realized that there serious conflicts of interest inherent in this situation, Latschar has now reversed field, announced that he won’t take the position with the Gettysburg Foundation, and that he will remain as superintendent of the GNMP:
Latschar to remain in current post as Gettysburg Superintendent
Gettysburg Superintendent John Latschar will remain in his current post, reversing his decision to retire and become president of the Gettysburg Foundation. Latschar made the decision following advice by Department of the Interior ethics officials that would have severely curtailed his ability to work with the park in his new role with the Foundation.
When initially approached to consider heading the Gettysburg Foundation, Superintendent John Latschar did what any responsible federal employee should do, said National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis R. Reidenbach. He contacted National Park Service ethics officials, and he also contacted me as his supervisor.
When initially informed by the Washington office in October 2008 that there was no ethical issue in accepting the position, Latschar announced his retirement. Subsequently, Department of Interior ethics officials issued supplemental guidance because of Latschar’s involvement in developing agreements between the Foundation and the NPS.
“The Foundation obviously would have been honored to have John as its next president,” said Foundation President Robert C. Wilburn. “But we are thrilled that he will continue to facilitate our successful partnership as superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park.” A search committee to find Wilburn’s successor is in place; Wilburn will postpone his departure from the Foundation until a successor is named.
“I had been looking forward to the challenges of moving to the private sector and working for the Gettysburg Foundation,” said Superintendent John Latschar. “However, I can’t complain about going back to the best job in the National Park Service as Superintendent of Gettysburg NMP and Eisenhower NHS. We’ll now redouble our efforts to make our wonderful partnership with the Gettysburg Foundation the best that the National Park Service has ever seen.”
“The Gettysburg Foundation’s loss is the National Park Service’s gain, and I am happy that John chose to remain as superintendent,” said Reidenbach. “The situation with the ethics guidance was unfortunate, but John Latschar and the Gettysburg Foundation have always maintained the highest ethical standards possible.”
Personally, I’m glad that the ethics people finally woke up and realized that they needed to do something about the huge conflict of interest inherent in this transaction, and that they took steps to stop it. It just never smelled right to me from the very beginning, and I was shocked that they didn’t have the same reaction to what seemed to me to be a very obvious problem.Scridb filter