19 October 2009 by Published in: Rants 90 comments

I’m not quite ready to resume regular posting yet. I’m making progress–this almost month off has helped–but I need a bit more time. However, this article in today’s Washington Post REALLY pisses me off, and I really felt compelled to share this with you. That this unethical guy is skating with nothing but a slap on the wrist is really a farce. I’m not sure which pisses me off more–that it happened, or that it got covered up. Either way, this guy has lost ALL credibility.

Report ignored explicit images found on park official’s computer
Gettysburg superintendent had 3,400 photos

By Kimberly Kindy
Monday, October 19, 2009

The National Park Service says it is satisfied with the results of a year-long inspector general’s investigation that found no criminal violations by John A. Latschar, the superintendent of one of the agency’s most popular facilities, Gettysburg National Military Park.

It will not say, however, how it handled a violation of department policy that was documented in the course of the investigation — Latschar’s use of his office computer over a two-year period to search for and view more than 3,400 sexually explicit images.

An internal Aug. 7 memo from an investigator to Daniel N. Wenk, the acting director of the National Park Service, details the discovery of the images on the computer hard drive that was seized by investigators. But the office of Mary L. Kendall, acting inspector general for the Department of the Interior, omitted details of the computer probe or any mention of the violation from a 24-page report that was released Sept. 17.

“Latschar’s inappropriate use of his government computer violates DOI policy,” states the memo obtained by The Washington Post. The investigator forwarded the report to Wenk for “whatever actions you deem appropriate.”

Wenk, through a spokesman, called the matter a “personnel issue” and would not comment on whether disciplinary action was taken.

Latschar also declined interview requests. He remains in his $145,000-a-year job.

The memo said that Latschar signed a sworn statement acknowledging “that he had viewed inappropriate pictures on his government computer during work hours” and that “he was aware of his wrongdoing while he was doing it.”

The inappropriate use of office computers to view pornography has surfaced at other government agencies, including earlier this year at the National Science Foundation, where an inspector general’s report led to several reprimands and the suspension of six employees. In one case, a “senior official” spent up to 20 percent of his working hours over a two-year period viewing the images, the report said.

Franklin Silbey, a former congressional investigator and Civil War preservationist, said the findings on Latschar are almost certain to inflame criticism of the superintendent, who is a popular and polarizing figure in the park system.

“People are aghast at their public findings. To learn, in addition, that they found this kind of unethical conduct and did not disclose it is inexcusable,” he said.

The investigation was triggered by 17 allegations of ethical and criminal misconduct by Latschar — largely in relation to his dealings with the Gettysburg Foundation, which operates a new visitors center and park that opened in spring 2008.

Latschar helped to create the private foundation and became well known in the park system for designing and promoting a public-private model that promised to infuse the cash-starved park with money it needed to build the new center.

The inspector general’s investigation noted that Latschar said the construction project would be funded by the foundation and that no taxpayer money would be used. However, as the price tag jumped from $39.3 million to $135 million, $35 million in public financing was ultimately needed to finish construction, records show.

The report also said that Latschar planned late last year to leave his job as superintendent to take a $245,000-a-year job as the foundation’s president.

An internal Jan. 26, 2009, memo, obtained by The Post, shows that during the course of the inspector general’s investigation, department ethics officials stepped in, pointing out several legal obstacles Latschar would face. The memo says post-government employment laws would prohibit him from performing many job duties, including “any communication to or appearance before an employee of the United States.”

As a result, Latschar dropped his planned job move, records show.

Investigators made no determination in the public report about whether Latschar’s conduct was improper or unethical. Kris Kolesnik, an Inspector General’s Office spokesman, said investigators are prohibited from drawing conclusions and that they must lay out facts, point by point. Kolesnik added that it is up to the department to “draw the conclusions.” Kendall declined interview requests.

The Inspector General’s Office would not comment on why the findings of Latschar’s improper use of his office computer were omitted from the report.

Several critics of Latschar’s said they were upset about the inspector general’s omissions from the report but are more concerned that the Park Service has not explained whether it will take any disciplinary action against the superintendent for cost overruns, his relationship with the foundation and the latest revelations about his computer use.

“It’s disturbing, but the inspector general looks for criminal activity, not indecency,” said Eric Uberman, whose family has owned a Gettysburg wax museum of Civil War figures since 1962. “The Park Service will not hold him accountable.”

Unfortunately, I think Eric Uberman is correct. This guy should have been fired for his little conflict of interest, and now this. In the private sector, he would have been escorted out of the building by an armed guard with instructions to never set foot in the place again. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why that didn’t happen here.

Latschar needs to go, as he has absolutely no remaining credibility whatsoever.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Raffi
    Thu 22nd Oct 2009 at 7:39 pm

    That is indeed key, that Latschar was not part of firing her; as I suspected the claim in the Gettysburg Discussion Group is not true. Note also I mentioned above the difficulty of firing a federal employee — Eastern National is of course not part of the NPS. The accusation to Latschar on this was, as I suspected, a jump to conclusions to make him more of a punching bag by those who did not have evidence (nor knowledge of how the park runs, apparently, since Latschar is not the one who decides what happens with Eastern National employees).

    It’s worth noting that the woman’s crimes also went beyond just blogging on company time, but doing so during that time to write poorly of her employers (never a good idea to do publicly):
    “The content of her writings included disparaging remarks about both Latschar and her employer, Eastern National.”

    This might have played a role too.

  2. Thu 22nd Oct 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Raffi, I don’t think you understand the department’s policies on issues like this, nor the severity of the situation. The actions outlined in the articles and disclosed thus far are indeed serious. To say we should just brush them all away is nonsense.

  3. Raffi
    Thu 22nd Oct 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Craig, if you read my posts closely you will see that I did not say we should brush anything off — and in fact I even said that reassigning Latschar was the thing to do. So I am not sure why you think I should brush them off. If you are talking about my last post, that goes back to the false accusation about the pregnant woman, which is not related to the explicit images infractions of late. I am simply saying that as wrong as his actions were, it doesn’t erase the impact that we still see on the battlefield: be it the landscape, the visitor center, and even the Journey Through Hallowed Ground recognition in one of the articles (note the Journey is not part of the NPS). It doesn’t erase the accomplishments that got him the award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The violations do a lot of negative things, but “erasing” the impact of the projects (i.e. visitors experiencing the new landscape) is impossible, just like erasing the impact of the negatives is impossible (i.e. we will never how his term as Superintendent ended). You can’t selectively argue it one way — it’s a two way street, and I am acknowledging both, while you are acknowledging only one.

  4. Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 10:22 am

    Raffi,

    I say Latschar was simply the man at the wheel when the changes were made, not some great visionary who drove the changes. Did he come to the table with some grand plan and vision? Or did he simply put his spin on proposals and projects introduced by both the service, department, and other outside agencies? I say the later. What he accomplished that was good could well have been done by any other qualified individual, AND with less friction. That HAS been done at other parks I could name (Manassas…. Shiloh…. Chickamauga….)

  5. James F. Epperson
    Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 11:17 am

    To the best of my knowledge, which is non-trivial, the tree lines at Shiloh are nothing like they were in 1862.

  6. Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Come now James, I didn’t say Shiloh was cutting trees now did I? What I said was that other parks (Shiloh for instance) have had similar over arching projects for improvements that have been accomplished with less splash.

  7. James F. Epperson
    Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Precisely what you were saying was unclear to me, hence my comment.

    Generally, Shiloh has been tolerably well-managed (IMO) but underfunded. But no one there has suggested restoring the tree lines to what they were like in 1862 (that I know of). I think that would be a good thing, but it would take money, which Shiloh doesn’t have. (Hell, they have a road that’s been closed for safety reasons for at least 15 years … ) Getting the money to do what is needed sometimes takes an individual manager who is able to cajole or manipulate or do whatever it takes to get the funding. For all his flaws, Latschar was able to do that. I think he did a lot of good, and I am not convinced that “just anyone else” would have done as well. I know people had issues with him even before this final scandal. But on balance I think his stewardship of the Park has been outstanding.

  8. Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Actually there is a clearing project at Shiloh, but it is being managed with what I’d consider a higher degree of QC than at Gettysburg, and at a slower pace (the funding you mention). The road I think you are recalling, passed through the Indian Mounds, and that has been reopened. The only closed road I know of is to the landing itself, as bluff stabilization is ongoing. Over the last decade or so, the most visible changes, IMO, are adjustments of the park roads to conform with some of the historical lines. Several of the old concrete road beds were removed, particularly the old state highway feed into the park. In short, much was done within the resources they had, but without a lot of fuss and friction.

    I really think you are empowering Latschar with some elevated qualities when you say not just anyone could have done what he accomplished. The NPS is a quality organization, and staffed well. I dare say there are plenty of qualified individuals in the service today who could have done so without the controversy Latshar brought.

  9. James F. Epperson
    Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I did not know the road past the Indian Mounds had been re-opened—that is the closed road I was thinking of, as the bluff erosion that undercut it in the first place began when we lived in the area, in the 1990s. The last time I asked about that road when visiting the park, there were no plans to re-open it, as it would cost too much to stabilize the bluff. (The Indian Mounds are just about my wife’s favorite part of the Park.)

    I didn’t mean to suggest JL was “indispensible” (sp?), simply that the amount and scale of projects he did get done was such that I do think it is a stretch to suggest that it would have been simple and easy to find someone else to have done them. He did receive a preservation award recently, which I presume means that someone of stature thinks he did an exceptional job.

  10. Raffi
    Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Craig,

    If what you are saying is true, then why wasn’t it done for decades? And also what is done at these other parks is nothing to the scale of GNMP. And, I personally know people at some of these parks, and they hold GNMP as the model, in fact, for that type of project. The scale of the visitor center project (arguably the best Civil War museum in the country, as recognized by many major publications), the scale of the tree project, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground stuff, and so on.

    Unfortunately, I think your claim is lacking evidence. I don’t think you can point to me who it was in those other entities you mention that accomplished this. You are speculating; and you are using a counter-factual as to what would have happened with some other qualified individual. Let me remind you, too, that much of the bonus funding he secured from the Congress was the result of his own work, not the NPS, which consistently does not give nearly enough money to GNMP to do the projects it does (though the Foundation partnership, which Latschar has a lot to do with, did provide GNMP with such funding to the tune of $100 plus that the NPS cannot afford).

    Why don’t you ask the Supervisory Historian or Chief Ranger at GNMP, or the National Trust for Historic Preservation, or the Civil War Preservation Trust, in order to see who deserves the credit for the initiative?

    Please consider finding more concrete evidence for your claims instead of speculating, and please consider asking those involved with the projects who they credit.

  11. Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Pardon my intrusion into your conversation (and for my anonymity) but I just wanted to chime in with my agreement that Latschar should not have gotten off so freely with misusing government property while on the taxpayer dime. Personally, if the NPS or Interior Dept continues to lack the cajones to fire him, then perhaps the federal prosecutor whose jurisdiction covers Gettysburg will consider stepping in with some criminal charges for the misuse of the computers and/or for theft of honest services.

    Either fire him or charge him, but Latschar is a disgrace to the gray & green.

  12. Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Raffi,

    Somebody mentioned to me that they thought that you are a seasonal ranger at GNMP. Is that true?

    Eric

  13. Raffi
    Fri 23rd Oct 2009 at 11:59 pm

    I think many people have thoroughly addressed your points at different times with various opinions, so read the above for response I (or others) gave to the issues you raise. You’ll see my mixed opinion above, but remember that the rules aren’t based on what you think should or should not be the punishment — they are what they are. Your claim of “criminal charges” seems too far, given he didn’t break the law, though he did break the policy. You’re welcome to believe whatever you like, but the comment about the cajones of the NPS is misguided because it fails to acknowledge that the policy is not based on what you think should be done — and the “cajones” of the NPS are determined by the policy, not by your opinion, so it’s important to distinguish that before attacking the NPS.

  14. Raffi
    Sat 24th Oct 2009 at 12:04 am

    Eric,

    Ha, I didn’t know I was famous, haha.

    Indeed it is true — I am a graduate student in History as well as Historic Preservation at UGA during the school year. I however did not want to mention that here when expressing my opinions because I do not in any way represent the opinions of the GNMP or NPS or anyone else on this issue. I am speaking on behalf of myself, and not anyone else. All views expressed are my own.

    Here I am giving a battlewalk in 2008! (shameless self-promotion)
    http://www.gettysburgdaily.com/?p=234

    Anyway, also please realize that I am not saying anything I did because I was employed by NPS in the summer — I am not blindly partisan just because of my place of summer employment. I try to be fair, and I suppose part of my opinion is indeed influenced by working there: partly because I know how things work better than many who assume things from the outside (such as how computer violations are dealt with, and so on, as my references above can suggest).

    Look for me if you come by in the summers!

  15. Sat 24th Oct 2009 at 7:41 am

    Raffi,

    i suppose famous is better than infamous. :-)

    Actually, I’m pleased to hear it, for a variety of reasons. It’s good to know that there are talented young historians coming up through the ranks, and I appreciate your insight. I do not think that your opinions reflect those of the NPS, but the insight helps to flesh things out.

    If you’ve worked at the park, then I assume you’re familiar with my work. I have a lifelong love affair with the Battle of Gettyburg, and I have devoted a great deal of space in my work to the campaign and battle. As I have said repeatedly, I have my own reasons for having an axe to grind against John Latschar, and I have never made a secret of that fact. In fact, I have been debating whether to share the story here, so that people understand my perspective. If people want me to do so, then I will.

    In any event, while we may have gotten off to a slightly rocky start, I very much appreciate your time and insight.

    Eric

  16. John Foskett
    Sat 24th Oct 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Raffi and Craig:

    Thanks for the insights. I have a question. Most of my NPS contact is a result of my climbing habit and is therefore with folks at places like Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, North Cascades, the Tower, and Yosemite. It strikes me that some of the funding needs at those facilities are strikingly different from the needs at, say, the military parks (other than the things they have in common, like roads and enforcement). I think the revegetation/clearing projects at Gettysburg and Shiloh are highly worthwhile. i’m guessing that they also take a distant backseat to maintenance, law enforcement, rescue and similar requirements which are common to nearly all of the NPS parks. GTNP needs seasonal climbing rangers and naturalists. GNMP needs historians. How is the money allocated? I’ve always thought that the different categories of park/facility should be under different management, myself.

  17. Raffi
    Sat 24th Oct 2009 at 7:25 pm

    I’m not sure about the process and breakdown money allocation between the natural and cultural parks at that high of a level, since I am not in any way involved with that, of course. I am a seasonal park ranger in interpretation, so it’s hard to see those things myself. But, if you’re looking for a unifying factor, think about it this way: the NPS is about preserving, and in both cases the mission is to preserve. In a sense, one can even say that both Grand Tetons and Gettysburg are historic resources, because both are trying to preserve historic landscapes.

  18. Raffi
    Sat 24th Oct 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Eric,

    Of course I know your work!

    Appreciate you taking the time with thorough responses.

    Hope to see you on the battlefield sometime.

    (I tried posting this earlier but somehow it got labeled as spam by the auto-detector, not sure why)

    Raffi

  19. Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 9:09 am

    Raffi,

    I have provided, in the course of the discussion specific to Shiloh, the information you seek. I can provide more details for the other parks, but do not wish to intrude on the host’s space here. If you look at any of the NPS Parks, and query for their long range plans, you will see those reports.

    Why was it not done for decades? Well simply put the park system was overlooked for some time, when it came to funding from Congress. In the mid 1990s a certain first lady made a visit to one park in particular and was aghast at the appearance. From that visit came a lot of attention.

    From that attention came several programs proposed at the top level aimed to bring all the parks to a level of parity with regard to service offerings, appearance, and contextual support (i.e. historical or ecological factors). THAT not Latschar, was the start of the tree clearing. Basically the park service was called to the mat and had to explain what the money was being spent on and how better to focus that money. In the end, parks were required to provide long range plans for improvement, and ask Congress for funding.

    Arguably a larger percentage of the park at Manassas has been cleared than at Gettysburg. And with less fuss.

    Arguably a better arrangement has been made with Pamplin Park and Petersburg than was done between the GB park and the Foundation.

    Monocacy has actually grown in coverage, provided a better interpretive system and improved VC, in terms of relative scale, on par with what has been done at GB over the last 15 years.

    And Arguably a better job was done with regard to road repairs and improvements in Shenandoah NP than at Gettysburg.

    These four parks (plus Shiloh as I mentioned above) have made gains without the flash and controversy. I’d bet you cannot even name one of those park superintendents. To say that GB needed Latschar is reaching, IMO. GB needed a leader, and unfortunately the one they got was flawed to the core.

    And Latschar did NOT go to Congress and secure funds outside of the department’s process. To say he personally appealed to Congress outside of the department or the service is not true. He went to Congress on behalf of his bosses to explain the mountain of money requested in response to the long range plans mentioned above.

    So to close this dialog, next time you want to call someone a liar (as you did) then make sure YOU have the facts to back that up. From the short time I’ve seen your discussion on this forum, it is clear you prefer to hurl insults rather than keep the dialog principled. You do not appear to have much background in these issues, and often fill in insults as mortar for poor arguments. There are some things I can tolerate and overlook. But being called a liar is not one of them.

  20. Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 9:24 am

    John Foskett,

    The whole story would fill up a book (several in fact in the form of DOI internal policy and instructions). With regard to the different funding strategies between the different parks, you are correct in assuming those require different approaches. The NPS currently adjusts that, with the recognition that not all solutions apply to all situations, using a long range planning system. Each park is required to provide their long range plan for approval. I’m going to swag from memory here, but as I recall that plan must address certain core objectives of the service –
    -Education/interpretation;
    - Stabilizing, preserving, protecting, and maintaining cultural resources;
    - Managing, monitoring, and protecting natural resources;
    - Maintaining and expanding partnerships;
    - Improving park accessibility.

    Within that framework, each park basically makes their pitch for “attention” which is clearly in the form of $$$. Prior to the 1990s, any park improvement plans were presented just as if one were doing facilities repair on a building. After some attention the parks received in the 1990s, these above mentioned broader set of objectives were placed on the improvement process. In short, the parks were not simply expected to put a new coat of paint out every year, but gradually improve in quality over that time.

    Specific to your question, yes, the money is allocated with a different sense of objectives for the different types of parks, but those allocations fit within an over-arching service wide plan to improve the quality of our parks.

  21. John Foskett
    Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 11:19 am

    Thanks to both for the input. The point made above regarding the identity of the Superintendent being relatively insignificant needs a qualification, IMHO. Another example from the climbing realm. For decades only one guide service was concessioned to guide climbs on Mt. Rainer. The monopoly was completely unjustified, with other area guides at least equally qualified to guide the several routes on the mountain. In fact, a good case could be made that those guide outfits provide a better service. A few years ago, the Superintendent of Mt. Rainier NP (name currently escapes me) listened to the chorus of complaints and either vigorously pushed an end to the monopoly or ended it himself. This is not to say that Latschar was in any way indispensable to the changes at Gettysburg NMP which I think many would agree have been for the better (blowing up that hideous tower, the revegetation/clearing, the new VC) . I do think, however, that a Superintendent can have an impact for better or for worse on how a particular park is operated. I plead ignorance on how instrumental Latschar was in pushing these positive developments. And, quite obviously, all of that has been seriously compromised, at least from a public relations standpoint, by the conflict issue and now these bizarre revelations.

  22. Raffi
    Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Craig,

    I did not accuse you of lying, I claimed that you were jumping to conclusions based on assumptions and on speculation — and many wrong facts. Several of your facts above are incorrect, but I do not any longer feel like having an in-depth discussion about this, especially on the host’s page. I have to return to my schoolwork, haha, so perhaps if we meet sometime I will gladly have a civil discussion. If you read what I originally wrote, I think there are points you still have unaddressed, and you should consider. I am unclear as to how you are so sure these things would have happened (counter-factual) without Latschar there.

    As I said above, ask those involved with the projects who they hold responsible for those initiatives. I personally know most the people involved with the project (in leadership roles), and I also personally know people at many Civil War parks (again in leadership roles), and I also personally know leadership officers in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Civil War Trust, and all of these people agree on Latschar’s centrality to these projects. So right now, it’s your word from outside against those who have been closely involved with the projects for years — and presumably have more facts for the basis of their conclusions.

    I think even Eric, a strong (and more reasonable) critic of Latschar, gives him credit for at least some of these initiatives, as you will find in his comments above (though I am not speaking for him, and hopefully I am not misunderstanding some of your comments Eric, my apologies if I am).

    As for you accusing me to be a liar, look into it and you’ll find the facts I mentioned to be true — if anything, I am hesitant to mentioned facts rather than the other way around. I urge you to reconsider your over-reaction to my comments and reading more into them than are already there — I hope this is not the sort of reading that caused you to jump to your conclusions on Latschar’s role in these projects.

  23. Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Raffi,

    I absolutely no give credit where it’s due, and he does deserve credit for the things that he accomplished.

    Eric

  24. John Foskett
    Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Eric:

    I meant to respond to the second-to-last paragraph in your 10/19 post. That procedure is simply SOP for both private and public sector employers. As an employment lawyer with both for clients, that instruction is given immediately on discovering that an employee has been accessing this type of stuff in the workplace. I can fathom only one reason it wasn’t done here – bureaucratic rank. If this had involved some sort of clerk, you can wager a handsome sum that the person would have been told to collect his or her personal items and been helped to the door.

  25. Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Raffi,
    My point is that “great things” that happened at Gettysburg were not singular or isolated. Rather these were part of a greater focus in the NPS toward higher level objectives. I think if you would read my comments rather than trying to accuse me of something, you’d see that clearly. Great things happened at other parks, without Latschar. So to say he was somehow critical to the situation is a bogus conclusion. Looking at the examples I’ve provided, clearly there was another way. Furthermore Latschar became a focus of those who wish to limit the park, and in some ways made enemies of those who he should have allied to the cause.

  26. Valerie Protopapas
    Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 5:45 pm

    My problem with the gentleman is intellectual dishonesty. A friend of mine from New York visited the “new” center and too issue with the presentation of the position of former slaves. I’ve never seen the place, so I cannot comment. However, this friend wrote to Latschar and asked him why he believed that newly freed slaves with no education and who could not read or write were worthy to be elected to public office simply on the basis of their race. Latschar responded with some information on several slaves so elected who COULD read and write.

    In response to Latschar’s letter, when my friend sent back overwhelming documented evidence (taken from Union sources) of the total lack of any ability of the vast majority of these newly elected freedmen to hold ANY office. Instead of acknowledging this evidence and the fact that it contradicted his own viewpoint on the matter, Mr. Latschar simply ended the correspondence. That, as far as I’m concerned, is intellectual dishonesty.

    Latschar presented a position and to a certain extent, defended it. But faced with overwhelming evidence contrary thereto he simply refused to either continue the debate or acknowledge the superiority of my friend’s viewpoint. That is hardly the quality of scholarship or objectivity that should be requisite in anyone holding Latschar’s position.

    Val

  27. Raffi
    Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Craig,

    Again, I point you to all those people involved with the project that I mentioned above. Talk to them, see what they say.

    A larger effort in the NPS yes, but not nearly as much as what happened at GNMP.

    Your “larger percentage” argument for Manassas is spinning because the area at Manassas is not nearly as large as the area at Gettysburg.

    Your argument about Petersburg and Pamplin Park is missing the point: the point isn’t what partnership you think is better, the point is that the scale of what Latschar did with the Foundation is far far larger than what happened at Petersburg with Pamplin Park. You may not agree with the partnership with the Gettysburg Foundation, but what is relevant to the argument of the degree of credit that Latschar deserves for bold initiative is his level of responsibility within those projects, not whether or not you approve or disapprove of the project. So stick to the point: like the Foundation or not, Latschar is the one who has greatest responsibility for the scale of what happened at GNMP with the Foundation (which led to $100 million plus, the VC, the landscape rehab as a result of the VC moving, and so on). Remember that it was Latschar’s degree of influence in this that was precisely the basis for the investigation by the Inspector General. So you are way off the mark in questioning the degree of Latschar’s role in this — even if you disapprove of the Foundation partnership.

    Your claims on Monocacy are again ill-informed and spinning. It has actually grown in coverage because it had very little to begin with, unlike Gettysburg where preservation has begun since 1864. I am not sure what your evaluation criteria are for Monocacy providing a better interpretive system, but let me point out that Latschar doesn’t have as much to do directly with interpretation at the park as far as ranger programs go. That falls to the Supervisory Historian, who you can contact about this issue for more information. Let me remind you that at GNMP we give over a dozen different types of interpretive programs daily in the summers, daily-changing battlewalk topics, multiple evening campfire topics, and about 20 Real Time anniversary programs as well as several anniversary battlewalks for 3 days (which get hundreds of people each, and are broadcast on TV). As for your point about Monocacy and its “improved VC” — indeed it is improved, and I appreciate that, but it is again not to the scale of the Gettysburg VC, recognized by many major journalism publications as the best Civil War Museum in the country, covering the whole war — and including a restored Cyclorama painting, of which there are only 2 on this continent and about 10 in the world. So for you to reduce the comparison between the VC Mococacy and the VC at GNMP is a fallacy of degree, according to the rules of argumentation.

    Your point about a better job was done with regard to road repairs and improvements in Shenandoah NP than at Gettysburg is knit-picking evidence and looking very narrowly and missing the bigger picture. First, how do we evaluate this? What is your criteria? Second, more importantly, even if I concede you this point, let us ask: perhaps Shenandoah had better road improvements because they didn’t focus so much effort on all the things that GNMP did? In other words, if we do a more thorough evaluation of initiatives, the conclusion could very well be that Shenandoah did more work on roads because it did not have so many other big initiatives that were taking up time and money. So again, your cherry-picked emphasis there is spinning the larger picture.

    I am not as familiar with the work at Shiloh, so I won’t jump into the debate there.

    Finally, perhaps the other Superintendents are not as well known precisely because of the fact that Latschar distinguished himself because of these projects. That is, if it was such a department-wide effort, then why did the National Trust for Historic Preservation as well as the Civil War Trust distinguish Latschar as opposed to those from the other parks? What made Latschar stand out within these department-wide efforts? While indeed there was more effort by the NPS to improve things, it was nothing even remotely close to the scale of what happened at GNMP — just ask the National Trust or the Civil War Trust.

    If you still don’t believe me, again I urge you to talk to those involved with the projects who they hold responsible for those initiatives. As I already said, I personally know most the people involved with the project (in leadership roles), and I also personally know people at many Civil War parks (again in leadership roles), and I also personally know leadership officers in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Civil War Trust, and all of these people agree on Latschar’s centrality to these projects. So right now, it’s still your word from outside against those who have been closely involved with the projects for years.

    Our kind host, Eric, also weighed in above.

    So until you talk to these folks, please avoid: using the hyperbole (i.e. “bogus conclusion”), and attacking me as someone who “do[es] not appear to have much background in these issues” (see my background in who I am citing in my paragraph just above this one).

    Unfortunately, with all due respect, if I may quote yourself back to you: “From the short time I’ve seen your discussion on this forum, it is clear you prefer to hurl insults rather than keep the dialog principled.” Eric and I had a good discussion, and I thought we generally did a good job of not attacking each other — I feel disappointed that you felt the need to attack me off the bat. We were both passionate, but still with all my previous posts, nobody thought I accused them of being a liar, even if I said they may not have all the facts (which is fine, nobody is all-knowing, that’s why we engage in such a forum).

    I am not accusing you of lying (i.e. knowingly misleading). I think you genuinely believe what you are saying. My issue, as you can see, is that you are going way too far with your argument when you blur the difference of degree, when you forget the difference of the contingencies within each park and the obstacles each faces, and when you focus on one initiative at one park and another one at another park but fail to see the comprehensive picture.

    Ultimately, as I said, when it comes to Latschar’s accomplishments on the battlefield, I think I’ll stick with what the people involved in the project think, what the leaders at other Civil War parks have said to me, and what those distinguished organizations recognize. As you will find in my posts above, I do not by any means think he is perfect; but I do recognize, as Eric does above, his accomplishments on the battlefield.

  28. Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Raffi,
    Again, you are way, way, off and trying to put words in my mouth. It seems you are more bent on gaining the man in question some saint-hood than looking at the facts.

    Perhaps you have not read anything I have written, only focused on bullets you can hype in your responses. I have recognized what Latschar did with regard to the battlefield. However, my point is Latschar did not do anything beyond what his peers were doing at other parks. I’ll applaud what he did accomplish, but at the same time weigh the negatives that you so conveniently overlook. You’ve offered some unconvincing arguments above. But nothing that changes the base reality.

    I have spoke with many of the folks in the organizations you mention in this and your other comments. In the course of my day job, I have spent a lot of time working at NPS and DOI’s offices in the beltway. I can say that when Latschar’s name is mentioned, the response is not overwhelming. Often it is either non-committal (quietly changing the subject) or outright expressions of disgust. Face it, the man gained a lot of enemies. Let’s hope that those enemies don’t translate their dislike to the park.

    Let me say again, I don’t think the man did anything out of the ordinary, or beyond what his peers accomplished with less backing, less press, and less notoriety. But I will acknowledge he did accomplish enough in his 15 years to talk about. I just wish it had not come with a counterbalance load of negatives. As such, Latschar’s tenure will be marked by a lack of integrity, not by any great achievements.

    Let’s move on from this discussion then and focus on what more needs to be done at the park.

  29. Raffi
    Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Craig,

    I did not put words in your mouth, I tried to give an answer to each of your points, one by one, then I quoted you.

    I did read everything you wrote, not some bullets, and I urge you to read what I wrote throughout my responses on here. Your claim that I “conveniently overlook” the negatives and that I am trying to get him “saint-hood” is flat out false. Just read what I’ve written throughout this discussion, whether to you or to others.

    “Face it, the man gained a lot of enemies.” If you read above, I did indeed agree with Eric that he was polarizing, so you are arguing against someone else here, not me.

    Your claims that “Latschar did not do anything beyond what his peers were doing at other parks” or that “I don’t think the man did anything out of the ordinary” are just off the mark. Again I say, over and over, you are blurring the degree of the changes at each of these parks, and you are overlooking the distinction made by so many of his peers and these organizations — many of these are public recognition that I can point to very clearly, whereas some of the private discontent you refer to I am not surprised at because inevitably some people will be unhappy (but WHY they are unhappy is the key, saying they are not so keen on Latschar to you does NOT prove that they agree with you in that he did not accomplish something out of the ordinary… Eric, for example, is not so keen on Latschar, but he certainly still acknowledges his contributions).

    Ultimately, I am disappointed that your best response to my point-by-point refutation of each of your examples (except Shiloh) is to come back and restate your point (for which I addressed the weak evidence).

    Hopefully I quoted you enough in this post so you don’t accuse me of putting words in your mouth.

  30. Sun 25th Oct 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Raffi, and I think you are overlooking, and in many ways marginalizing, the excellent work done at the other parks. Read up on the annually submitted long range plans of the parks such as Vicksburg, Monocacy, and even little old Fort Pulaski. I would advance the case that dollar for dollar, more has been done at Pea Ridge than at Gettysburg. There is a fantastic example, way out there in Arkansas, of the park cooperating with outside organizations, and volunteers, to achieve the park’s goals. All that is missing is some idiot feathering his nest… which is what happened at Gettysburg.

    I’ve agreed with you that the man “did something” and deserves credit. I cannot follow you further and say he should receive high recognition. There it ends.

  31. Mon 26th Oct 2009 at 12:48 pm

    In terms of impact, John Latschar’s greatest legacy for GNMP will be his role in helping to draft the 1998 General Management Plan. GMPs run parks, basically. A good plan will set the stage for many years to come, while a bad plan can let the park drift and allow the resource to deteriorate.

    For all his faults, Latschar (and I do think his critics have raised valid points) played an important role in drafting that plan. All the good that has come at Gettysburg stems from that plan, and now that Latschar is gone, the park will continue to benefit from a clearly focused plan.

    Not every park has been so lucky. Chickamauga is in the middle of just such a process now, and I have spoken often to Jim Ogden about it – each time he has emphasized the need for the public to get involved and get their comments included at each stage of the process, in order to make sure that the park emerges with an equally strong GMP.

    Dave Powell

  32. Raffi
    Mon 26th Oct 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Craig,

    I am not overlooking the work at the other parks. I am just comparing the scale of what happened, because that is the very basis of your argument.

    I acknowledge that you recognize Latschar “did something,” but once again you are missing the point. Our debate isn’t where he did something; our debate is whether it is somehow distinguished compared to other parks (to quote you): “Latschar did not do anything beyond what his peers were doing at other parks” or that “I don’t think the man did anything out of the ordinary”… you will notice, from my post above, that is the claim I was arguing against, not your (new) claim that he “did something.” So let’s stick to the topic and the issue.

    Your Pea Ridge example again can be deceiving, as your Monocacy example — moreover, your Pea Ridge example lacks a single piece of hard data to support your claim.

    To repeat the same method that you used earlier to make your case when comparing to other parks (which I rebutted) is a poor augmentation to your argument. Then, to simultaneously call Latschar “some idiot” while changing your point to “I’ve agreed with you that the man “did something” and deserves credit” because your position has been so untenable is also a poor way to build your case.

    Ultimately, you have no response to most, almost all, of my points, beyond repeating your broader claim. I addressed almost all the parks you mentioned, and you “threw another one in the mix” so to speak (Pea Ridge) with no evidence at all. Moreover, I am again disappointed to see you stooped to marginalizing the interpretative programming at GNMP (which you said nothing again about), not to mention that such a claim clearly reveals how you have misunderstood the role of the Superintendent (i.e. not directly in interpretive programming, at least at GNMP). I am also of course not convinced your beltway friends agree with you for the same reasons (critics of Latschar don’t necessarily agree with you that he didn’t somehow accomplish more than the “ordinary” — to use your word). I’m glad to see your accusations against me putting words in your mouth have thankfully disappeared. In short, most the evidence for your claims does not stand up, and your rebuttal has generally been to ignore most the points and focus on some individual new point you bring in (and to repeat your larger claim, despite my responses to your supporting pieces of evidence and to your attacks, such as the on GNMP interpretation or on my background).

    I appreciate, sir, any good debate — I feel I got that with our kind host Eric, who did an excellent back-and-forth with me (in good fun and intellectual curiosity!) that acknowledged the points set forth and stayed on topic and did not just repeat the same thing over. Unfortunately, in this case, I do not feel you did similarly.

    This, to be clear, is not meant to be an insult to your intelligence, background, or argumentation skills. This is merely my opinion of the case you have presented only in this thread — NOT of your intellectual capabilities in any way. So please don’t take this as an attack on you as a person — it is more so on the argument itself — a distinction recognized most the great thinkers/philosophers of history (so it’s good enough a distinction for me!). In other words, as I often tell my students who may not have earned the grade they wish: “This is an evaluation of this piece of work that you submitted, not an evaluation of you as a person or your intellect.” I extend to you that same amiable sentiment.

    There, sir, it ends.

  33. Tue 27th Oct 2009 at 6:21 am

    Raffi,

    I would, however, pass along a piece of friendly advice to you. Since you are a park employee; and since your personal information may well have been accessed on the computer in question; I would suggest you secure some form of identity theft prevention service. You never know, due to the sites that must have been accessed and the malicious files that may have found their way to the system, who was able to pull data from that computer.

  34. Raffi
    Tue 27th Oct 2009 at 6:39 am

    Craig,

    Thanks for the advice, any particular devices you recommend?

  35. Thu 29th Oct 2009 at 2:53 pm

    About a month ago, I signed up myself and my wife at LifeLock.com (www.lifelock.com). Seems to be an excellent service. If you use any of the number of promotion codes available, it just costs a tad over $100/year per person. They notify you of any shady activity, prevent general access to your credit history (I love that – do you know that EVERY time you get a mailing from credit card offers, car insurance, etc, they’ve checked your credit report?), and pay if they screw up.
    Now we get a LOT less junk mail (hardly any) and I have a lot more confidence due to my high presence on the internet.
    J.D. Petruzzi

  36. Ted Nicholson
    Sat 31st Oct 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I came across this exchange while on another search, and perhaps should not even revive the topic of Mr. Latschar.

    But:

    Every time an NPS employee logs on the the network, thus giving them internet access, they agree to abide by the use policies in place.

    Each year all NPS employees, as well as volunteers and others must take online training to show that they understand their responsibilities in this area.

    Each Superintendent must certify that the training has taken place.

    Simply reassigning, Mr. Latschar to a non-supervisory position is not enough to demonstrate that the DOI/NPS is serious.

    I don’t even know how he got to those sites. I am a current employee and I can’t even access itunes or youtube at work. They have all that stuff blocked.

  37. Raffi
    Tue 10th Nov 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Ted,

    I don’t think anybody questioned the fact that he indeed violated policy. I think the questions have been around:

    1 the punishment (as per the policy outlines, not based on what I think or you think or whoever thinks it SHOULD be)

    2 the publicity of the violation as per DOI policy and guidelines on such publicity (any violations in publicity? and how does/should this publicity affect the punishment?)

    3 the effect on John Latschar’s accomplishments at GNMP

    On another note, he was mistakenly listed on a panel for the Southern Historical Association 2009 program as the President of the Gettysburg Foundation — obviously it’s a mistake (also I don’t believe he made it to the meeting):

    http://www.uga.edu/sha/meeting/program.htm#41

    Saturday, November 7: 11:45 A.M.-1:30 P.M.

    41. WORKSHOP IV—THE PUBLIC PRESENTATION AND INTERPRETATION OF SLAVERY AND SLAVE RESISTANCE: A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

    PRESIDING: Gary Gallagher, University of Virginia

    PANELISTS:
    Carol Ely, Executive Director, Historic Locust Grove
    Dan Jordan, Former Executive Director, Monticello
    John Latschar, President, Gettysburg Foundation
    Keith Griffler, University of Buffalo

  38. Mike Rinehart
    Thu 26th Nov 2009 at 1:36 pm

    He is an idiot. He had my dream job and I totally would not get involved in that crap especially on the job. What a fool.

  39. Raffi
    Tue 01st Dec 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Mike,

    Calm down, my friend, and see the discussion we’ve all already had. No need to react with such venom that gets the discussion nowhere.

  40. Sarah
    Wed 02nd Dec 2009 at 11:54 am

    And all I can think about is “Why on earth would they ask Eric Uberman’s opinion?” Of all people, Eric Uberman? REALLY? He’s not the most ethical person himself.

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