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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  June 22, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT

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business. here's my problem with what you wrote. it was not true. it was deceptive. and it was intended to make the appearance to the secretary of the interior that there was no ethical problem and that you were doing this at the request of eastern national, neither of which were true, correct? >> i think that it was incorrect. >> why should the secretary trust you? why should we trust you? >> because i have served as a public servant for 40 years, in leadership roles for 25 years, with an impeccable record of service to the american people. >> i don't know that that -- i don't know that i -- i take issue with the idea that it's impeccable. when you give a handwritten note to the secretary of the interior, deceiving her on two key points. >> i apologized profusely. >> no, what you said when you were confronted by the inspector general.
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miss kindle, i want you to weigh into this. you have a transcription? or what was this interview with the director? we asked jarvis whether looking back he would have done anything differently, and he said, and then it's quoted here, was that because it's transcribed or was that a recording? >> a recording. >> when you asked about this by the inspector general, this is what you said. would i have done the same thing? probably. i think i knew going into this there was a certain amount of risk. i've never been afraid of risk. i've gotten my ass in trouble many, many times by the park service, by not necessarily getting permission, i've always pushed the envelope. and then you go on from there. that is your quote, correct? >> that is my quote. >> and now you're apologizing because we're essentially having a public hearing? >> no, i apologized a long time ago, long before this hearing. and i apologized directly to the
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secretary and to the leadership of the national park service. and that was a mistake. and i fully own it. >> and you lied to her, you deceived her and i think it's wholly inappropriate. and now we look at the situation that's happening in cape canaveral -- or the canaveral national seashore. this chief ranger, this is a fairly small park in the big scheme of things, right, 50 or so employees? >> it's a small park. i don't know what the staffing size is. >> so ranger korer, how do you pronounce his name. >> korea. >> three of the four i.g. reports have been highlighting this, and you, your office, the national park service is handing him out awards, safety awards. how does somebody who's getting on the one hand reprimands and highlights and sexual harassment
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problems -- again, there's only 50 people, and you got three documented sexual harassment issues, you go to the superintendent -- the superintendent had allegations of reprisal that were found by the merit systems protection board and resulted in a settlement. you had to go into a settlement with the national park service. those were -- those were -- and the person is still in the job. >> his commission has been removed, but he is still in a -- in a -- he's still a federal employee, but his responsibilities have been removed. >> this becomes more than just an isolated incident where somebody makes a mistake. miss kindle, you've been looking at this. give us a perspective, first, if you would, on the note that was written by director jarvis to the secretary and then i want to ask you about canaveral. >> i would say that the note was -- >> sorry, move the microphone up a little tighter there. just pull it up. there you go.
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>> i would say that the note was not accurate and i agree with your characterization, that it was deceptive. your other question was? >> how severe is the situation at canaveral? how often do you have to go back and write three reports on the same topic? >> i would hope we would never have to write another report on any of those topics at that park again. >> has it been resolved? >> not to my knowledge. >> my time has expired. let me go to the ranking member, mr. cummings. >> thank you very much. miss kindle, you've identified and i quote, evidence of a long-term pattern of sexual harassment and hostile work environment in the grand canyon river district. in addition, you issued a report just a few days ago finding that a law enforcement supervisor at
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the canaveral national seashore has, and i quote, shown a pattern of sexual harassment, end of quote, against three employees at the seashore. do you believe that these are isolated incidents, or are they indicative of more pervasive problems within the park service? >> i cannot take these two examples -- >> can you talk a little louder, please? >> certainly. i would not take these two examples and paint the entire park service with that same brush, but it does cause concern that there may be a more pervasive problem when you got it at two different parks at this kind of level. >> so what else is your office doing to try to answer this critical question? because based on what you just said, it sounds like you have some questions yourself as to how pervasive it might be. and so what do you do to look beyond that?
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i assume that the i.g. would be interested in that. in other words, if you keep seeing these things come up, the chairman has mentioned various things, and i'm just curious, what do you do? >> well, by publishing our reports, we're hoping that there's some deterrent effect to that. i do know that the park service is making some effort to make a determination as to how pervasive -- >> is it -- are they moving fast enough? i guess that's the question. there's no reason why a woman should, any woman should be -- or man, should -- they're coming to work, there are people watching this right now, from the park service, and they want to know that these issues are being resolved and i know that you do too. and so it seems like there is -- seems like there's a delay, and you used some words that were very interesting. you said they try to avoid disciplining altogether,
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something like that. and what that says is that -- it reminds me of an old boys' system. where you say, okay, give you a wink, and you can get away with it, we'll transfer you and keep you on the same level as a supervisor. i mean, can you help us with, the question is, are they moving fast enough? because it's not -- it doesn't give anybody any relief to know that this stuff just goes on and mr. jarvis will tell us that he's doing things, but to be very frank with you, i don't think he's moving fast enough, but i want your opinion and what can be done better. >> quite frankly, i don't know what the status of what the park service has done or is doing right now. i agree with you, that people should in any environment be able to come to work free of
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sexual harassment and would hope that the park service is taking the kind of action with the survey they're talking about, to understand the breadth of the problem and then to come up with some corrective action. >> mr. jarvis, the same question. what steps is the park service taking to determine how pervasive sexual harassment is at its facilities? >> so, let's start with the grand canyon. there were 18 specific actions that the inspector general recommended. they had due dates of mostly by the 1st of may. almost every one of those have been implemented. there's a second set that's coming forward. but they range from personnel to change in field operations, to training to communication, and specifically to disciplinary actions on individuals that were either committed or omitted activities related to the canyon. so we are aggressively pursuing that at the canyon. >> whoa whoa whoa, staff tells me most of them have not been
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addressed. >> well -- >> the chairman has already made it clear that he has some concerns about your being able to tell the truth. so i want to remind you, you're under oath. and would you answer that question again? >> yes, sir. so i have a summary of actions in response to the inspector general's report as of may 23rd, 2016, prepared by our intermountain regional director. i cannot go into the details of the disciplinary actions in this forum, but i can tell you that they are all under way. we've launched -- we've closed down the river district. all river trips are being done by third-party, private river rafters -- >> whoa, hey, hey. i want to help you answer my question. because i'm not trying to trip you up.
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director, how many of these action items have been fully completed as of today? you said there were 22, right? >> 18. >> 18. and how many, director, have been completed as of today? >> um, i'd have to count up. can i count? >> yeah. go ahead. >> there are seven of the 18 that are completed. >> well, you just said the majority of them were. isn't that what you said? did i miss something? >> seven are completed. there's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven that are actively under way but not finalized. the disciplinary actions take time to pursue, but they are actively under way. >> do you agree with that, miss kindle?
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i know you said you don't know everything he's doing, but based on what he just said, do you agree that, with regard to the things that should have been done, that they -- that they should take all of this time? >> because i don't know the detail, i can't opine on that. i do know that disciplinary action does take time. i'm happy that the national park service is taking disciplinary action. my recollection is we only had three or four specific recommendations. so i'm not completely familiar with the 17 or 18 items that he's talking about. >> my time has run out, but i want you to tell me what you've done, for the benefit of the entire committee. because i'm going to tell you, i'm not sure you need to be in this position. but go ahead. >> so, service wide, i think the grand canyon is an indicator, as well as cape canaveral that we may have a significant problem of sexual harassment in the
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service in certain areas. i want to state up front, the vast majority of employees have a safe work environment. however, in discussions with the department of defense office of sexual assault prevention and response, we engaged their leadership with our leadership, to talk about this for over three hours, at our last national leadership council meeting, and general nichols, who leads that office, indicated that if you have this level of pervasion in one place, it's an indicator you may have it in others. >> when was that meeting? >> it was in may. so we have launched a team effort in my office specifically on how we are going to address this service wide. the second is, one of the general's recommendations, we need to do a prevalence survey, we need to look across the
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entire system anonymously, to allow employees to report whether or not they have been, or are currently being subjected to sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. >> i yield to the chairman. >> just to quickly follow up on that, the superintendent at canaveral has been there since 2010, was named in the subject of a report to director jarvis in 2012, including allegations of reprisal that were found by the merit systems protection board to be accurate. they had to enter into a settlement. what you're telling mr. cummings is not a candid response. it wasn't something that showed up on your desk weeks ago. this happened years ago. and you're saying the majority of this has been dealt with, but when it was brought to your attention and there were reprisals for the whistle-blowers, you did not deal with it.
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>> just one last thing. you just said you had this meeting in may, but keep in mind that the inspector general report goes back to november 16th 2015. why did it take so long? >> this was the first -- this was the first meeting of our national leadership council, where we could get all the senior leaders of the national park service to specifically address this. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> now recognize the gentleman from tennessee, mr. duncan for five minutes. >> well, thank you, mr. chairman, and there are very few people for whom i have higher respect than i do for ranking member cummings. he has a very difficult task at times and usually trying to defend administration witnesses, but it should send a message to director jarvis and throughout the park service that mr. cummings did not defend mr.
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jarvis today, and instead pointed out several different types of problems that have occurred in the park service. i think that's very significant. i spent 22 years, up until about six years ago on the interior committee, and now i've served on this committee and another committee. but i heard years ago that there was a $4 billion backlog -- maintenance backlog, and then i heard it was $6 billion, and then i heard it was $9 billion, and now i get material here that says the maintenance backlog is $12 billion. i have great respect also for people, for education, and people who get advanced degrees. but i think the park service needs to stop hiring so many ph.d.s and masters degrees and historians and environmental activists and so forth, and
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start hiring more laborers to chip away at this maintenance backlog, if it's not being exaggerated. i think we have at the park service, far too many chiefs and not nearly enough indians. but i also have been disturbed over the years by seeing that almost all or at least a great many of the federal contracts are awarded to companies that hire former high ranking and federal employees. we see that in the defense department. they hire all the retired admirals and generals. it just seems to be throughout the federal government. but i was disturbed, for instance, when i read from the staff, that the interior department solicitor's office had concerns when the denver office of the park service originally attempted to, it says, quote, originally attempted to steer the award
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to -- of this big contract, to a construction firm mcdonald, bowyard, peg, even though their bid was much higher than others. they cancelled the solicitation and later hired the same company under a new solicitation created with the requirements that only that particular contractor can meet. director jarvis, do you have a system in place to question contracts when they're not awarded to the -- when they're being awarded to the highest bidders instead of the low bidders? or do you have a system in place to question contracts -- or to prohibit contracts being awarded to companies that hire former employees of the park service? >> thank you for that question, congressman.
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we do have an audit program over our contracting officers, because they could lose their warrant for awarding contracts in some ways that you suggest. and we appreciate the audit and investigation by the inspector general that has revealed this case. this is new to us. and it is something we are going to pursue actively in terms of both discipline and corrective action, in terms of ensuring this doesn't happen again. >> and on this book contract that you've been asked about, i understand that you said it was -- that the proceeds were to be donated to charity. can you tell us how much has been donated to charity at this point? >> i do not know that, how much has been donated. >> the staff tells us that none
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has been donated to charity. >> the book sales -- let me clarify. the book is sold by eastern national, which is a cooperating association with the national park service, and it is required under its agreement to return to the national park service 12% to 17% of its annual profit. so that funding, whatever profit they get from the book, that can come back to the park service directly for projects, through the system. any decision for that can go to the national park foundation, but none of it comes to me. >> all right, my time is up. let me mention one other thing. i represent about half the great smokey mountains national park. that park is being overrun by thousands, many thousands of feral hogs, and i know that many people are anti-hunting, or some in this administration don't like hunting, but we've got very serious problems that are going to lead to very serious disease problems, if many more thousands of these feral hogs are not
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gotten out of the great smokey mountains. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank the gentleman. we'll recognize the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. cartwright for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i thank you for holding this hearing. miss kindle, i have some questions for you. i'm going to ask you to pull that microphone really close to your mouth. you're a low-talker and we need to hear you. i want to ask you about your office's investigation of the allegations arising from a february 2014 river trip that led to the discipline of two female grand canyon employees. the women were accused of inappropriate dancing and the use of a novelty drinking straw. they received 14-day suspensions and their contracts for employment with the park service were not renewed after their terms expired. both of them alleged retaliation, but your
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investigation concluded that, we found insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation of retaliation, unquote. have i read that correctly? >> yes, i believe you read it correctly. >> let's go over some of the facts in your report. is it true that one of the employees who complained about the two women was himself the subject of several prior complaints of sexual harassment? >> that's correct. >> did your investigation find that former grand canyon superintendent uberaga had any type of commonly known opinion about that person? >> i don't know about opinion. i think he had some knowledge. >> okay, you want to share that with us? >> pardon me? >> would you share that with us, please. >> he had launched an investigation himself internally about the conduct that was complained about earlier -- sexual harassment kind of conduct. and that report never seemed to make its way to anyone who could actually do something.
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>> and your report also notes that the supervisor who conducted the internal investigation admitted that he did not feel responsible for determining whether the complaints against the two women employees were exaggerated or if the allegations against them were in retaliation for their sexual harassment claims. he felt it wasn't part of his job and this supervisor did not even interview all of the people who were on that february 14 trip. but this supervisor's investigation was used as the basis of disciplinary action against the two women, ms. kendall your investigation found that several grand canyon employees and managers, including the superintendent, agreed that the internal investigation of the allegations against the two women employees were insufficient and incomplete. am i correct in that? >> i believe that's correct.
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>> did you find evidence that men who had been accused of sexual harassment received less severe disciplinary action than that recommended against these two women? >> i believe we did. >> would you say that louder? >> i believe we did. >> ms. kendall, it's you our understanding from discussions with the office of personnel management that term employees have similar protections under the merit system as full-time employees. would it be unreasonable for somebody looking at the fact pattern here involving discipline against these women to conclude that these women did indeed suffer retaliation for their claims of harassment? >> our office was unable to conclude that they did, but i think we were unable to go either way. >> all right. well, director jarvis, i want to invite your attention to this matter. i understand that the two women
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filed eeo complaints against the park service. are you aware of that? >> yes, i'm aware that they have filed. >> and what is the current stat status of those complaints that the women filed? >> i'm not aware of those two specific. there were actually seven filings from women associated with the grand canyon and this incident. i believe several of them have been settled but i'm not aware of the details. >> my understanding is the national park service entered into settlement agreements with both of these women last week. were you not aware of that, director jarvis? >> no. this is being managed out of our intermountain regional office by regional director so i'm not directly involved. >> and ms. kendall, were you aware of that settlement last week? >> i was not. >> well, i'm happy to help. i yield back, mr. chairman.
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yield to mr. cummings. >> just one question. wouldn't you want to know that? i mean, you've got a settlement, something that's controversial as this? i'm just curious. what kind of management is that? >> i do want to know -- >> you don't know it today? >> i don't know the specifics. i do not. >> did you know there were settlements? >> i knew the settlements were in negotiation, absolutely. >> but you didn't know the settlement took place. >> i did not hear that the settlements had been settled, no. >> thank you. >> i recognize the gentleman from michigan mr. wahlberg for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thanks to the panel. director jarvis, in december of 2011, you issued an mps memo establishing a ban on plastic water bottles, sales in the national parks. is it true that most if not all of the parks that have
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implemented the plastic bottle water ban still sell other plastic packaged beverages, soda, enhanced water, juice, et cetera? is that still the case? >> yes, sir. they still do. >> do you feel it is safe and healthy to ban the sale of bottled water? >> when the public are provided an ample opportunity to get that water from a variety of sources which we've built in, that's a requirement of the policy. they have to have filling stations throughout the park in order for them to refill reusable bottles. >> can you say with absolute certainty that this ban on plastic water bottles has reduced the garbage in the national parks? >> yes, with certainty. absolutely. >> what analysis has been conducted? >> we collect data on our solid waste management. i don't have that in front of
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me, but i'd be glad to get back to you specifically on the reduction of waste in the waste stream. >> well, i'd like to see that on reduced waste. i'd like to see it on decreased disposal costs, information on that. i'd like to see it on increased recycling implementation. those are issues i'd like to see because frankly the question still remains. we get rid of the water in bottles, and the sales of those water bottles, but we don't get rid of the sale of pop in the same bottles, energy drinks in the same bottles, juices in the bottles as well. my concern is that, i mean, we know that we need water. i've hiked enough of the national parks all across this nation to know that that's important. and the fact of the cost of putting in water filling
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stations leads me to concern that there are contractual issues that we ought to be concerned with as opposed to simply letting the sales take place to people who need the water. and, again, i'm not certain that the time that the necessary studies have been done to show that we've had an impact other than stopping the sale of water bottles, water in water bottles, in the state parks, for whatever -- national parks, for whatever reason that may be. i think there certainly ought to be questions that are raised about that subsequent to the needs of our visitors as well as contracting issues. let me go to another issue. an inspector general's report found that yellowstone's chief ranger breached the terms of an occupancy agreement with nps by failing to live full time as
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agreed in the contract in an apartment on yellowstone's grounds. why is it important that chief ranger of yellowstone live in the park and not somewhere off the grounds? >> so in many of our national parks we have what's known as required occupancy so a certain portion of park housing were constructed by the federal government and provided, though the employees pay rent, so that there can be quick response for emergency situations, fire, emergency medical, and the chief ranger leads that effort at yellowstone. >> so there's a potential of a loss of security, safety to park visitors as well as staff without the head ranger living on site. >> according to the superintendent, the chief ranger lived in private quarters that still allowed him to have rapid
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response. it was right on the park boundary but outside the park. >> i understand that he didn't rent out but he allowed outside visitors to live in that apartment instead of himself. is that true? >> that is correct. >> let me ask, what kind of discipline or reprimand did the ranger receive? >> he did receive specific discipline. again, i can't talk about individual discipline in a public forum, but i'd be glad to come to your office and talk to you specifically about it. but he was disciplined in this case. >> is he still in the same place? >> he is not. he is a superintendent at devil's tower, which was a demotion. >> thank you. i yield back. >> director jarvis, you are not inhibited in your ability to give an answer about specific discipline on a case that's asked in this forum. you're holding back and not providing an answer to mr. wahlberg, there's no
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incumberance here. if we ask you a question, we need you to answer it. if you know the answer to that question, i need you to answer it. >> chairman, i have been told by my solicitors and i would ask that they -- that specific disciplinary actions are privacy act issues. >> we will follow up for the record with you on that to make sure mr. wahlberg that you get the answer to that question. now recognize ms. kelly of illinois for five minutes. >> director jarvis, first and foremost, i just want to say thank you for all the help with pullman. i really, really appreciate it. we've talked about 18 action items dealing with grand canyon. why has the implementation of some of these action items been delayed? >> i don't believe that any of these actions have been delayed. in the disciplinary aspect of
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taking specific discipline on employees, that is a slow process. there are laws established by the congress that are specific to federal employees. title 5, the merit system promotion board, the douglas factors all have to be applied in the disciplinary pieces. so that's why they have not yet been totally executed but are absolutely in process. but they all have to be reviewed at a variety of levels before we can actually take the disciplinary action. all the others, there are no delays in the other actions. >> what about some of your self-imposed deadlines? have you met those? >> i believe we have, yes. >> while all of these action items are important, several are particularly critical to ensure that the perpetrators of sexual harassment are not able to harass anyone else at the national park. one action item states and i
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quote, the oig report highlights that the majority of the incidents described by the complainant involve four employees of the river district at grand canyon. one of those four individuals remains an employee. in light of the oig report, it is appropriate to take appropriate disciplinary or personnel action to remove this individual from specific work environment of the river district. what is the status of the fourth individual? >> the fourth individual still is an employee of the national park service at the grand canyon but has no involvement whatsoever with river district operations and is in no position to continue any harassment. he is just being held in a position with his rights as a federal employee and will be be subject to discipline. >> so that's why he's still there, because you're just following a process? >> but he's been removed from any role that he might play on the -- >> besides being removed, has any disciplinary action been taken yet?
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>> i'm sorry? >> i know he was removed and put into another position. but has any disciplinary action been taken yet? >> not yet, no. we're still working on that. >> director jarvis, another action item involved contracting out for, quote, logistical report for river trip involving park staff. has this item been completed? >> yes. so the regional director for the intermountain region has taken very specific actions at the park, one of which was essentially elimination of the river district, and commercial river rafters are now providing the river access for the kind of activities that the rangers were doing before. >> so how will contracting out the staff of river trips ensure this won't happen again in? >> we are meeting and providing training to those commercial operators who have been providing serves on the river.
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they are all under contract with the national park service to provide these services and we can hold them accountable through those contracts. >> and how can we be ensured that the employees that did perpetrate this not be hired again? >> well, i can assure you they will not be hired again. this will be retained as a part of their record, and the disciplinary actions will become part of their official files. >> even if they come through contractors, you can ensure that? >> there actually has been discussion about that specifically so we're talking specifically to the contractors that they cannot hire these individuals. >> the inspector general also found that the grand canyon engaged in individual as a volunteer or previously worked at the park and resigned after being suspended for sexual misconduct during a river trip. what are you doing to ensure that boatmen who engage in
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harassment who have left the park service employment cannot be rehired by or volunteer in any national park? >> well, again, i think it's up -- to float the river requires a permit from the national park service, whether they are volunteer, they are contractor, other federal agency. i think now that we are very, very aware of that, the river trip creates the potential for this kind of harassment, we are actively engaged in training, oversight, regular communications and post-trip evaluations so that folks that are coming off of these trips are interviewed within seven days to determine whether or not there were any issues. >> thank you. and i'm out of time. i yield back. >> will recognize the gentleman from florida mr. mica for five minutes.
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. director jarvis, you have 22,000 employees, is that correct? >> yes, sir. >> and i'm told you have over 400 sites that you manage and trust for the american people. i don't have a national park in my district anymore. i did have st. augustine. i have to tell the members and mr. jarvis that we have -- well, at least my experience has been we have some incredibly dedicated, hardworking individuals with the park service who day in and day out and weekends sometimes 24/7 do a wonderful job. and we appreciate their service, and they're doing it sometimes with limited resources and with a great crew of volunteers, too.
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so we have a list that's a pretty tough indictment of people who abused their responsibility, and i think you started to tell some of the problem. i've sat through -- today we have the national park service. we've had epa. we had irs. we've had secret service. we've had jsa. the list goes on and on. and we hear the same thing. you just said that you have a process that you must go through for discipline. it's almost impossible to fire a federal employee. i don't know if you'd agree with that, but it's very, very difficult, isn't it, director jarvis? >> yes, sir, i would agree with that very much so. i've done it a few times in my -- >> but it's very, very difficult. i chaired civil service for four years. i found it almost impossible. that's part of the problem we
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face. civil service was set up as a protection against political manipulation or misuse of authority over legitimate working civil servants. and it's gone far beyond that in providing cover for people who don't do a good job, and it puts barriers in the way. you could probably go through these cases and cite all the compliance that you had to do the due diligence by title 5, by other regulations, by other laws that constrain you from taking immediate action. is that correct? >> yes, sir, that is correct. >> it's hard. sometimes we can't get agency directors to come forward. but do you have any suggestions for anything that might speed up or improve the process to get rid of these poor performance or malfeasance employees?
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>> specifically, no, but i would certainly appreciate the willingness of the committee to work with us on some reform in this area because i do think it is a significant problem for us to be able to deal effectively. if we do not follow the rules throughout the process, there's a high likelihood that the individual can be reinstated. >> but again, we hear this. you're not the only agency with these personnel problems. ms. kendall, you have manage -- do you see a lack of management? or do you see a similar pattern that we described or both with what you have observed with some of these cases? >> i would say both, sir. i perhaps disagree somewhat with you in terms of difficulty by which to remove employees. i think the failure comes in the
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unwillingness to take progressive discipline and document. >> i like that. progressive discipline. maybe i'll have a new liberal approach to getting rid of people who have poor performance. i actually gave a certificate in transportation. i called for the firing of metro incompetent personnel and then the new director came to the second meeting. he fired 20 people the day before. i presented him with a certificate of appreciation because i never hear of anybody firing poor performers. he did it. but you say it's a lack of progressive -- >> progressive discipline and documentation. >> maybe i could do an act for progressive discipline and documentation. but you think that could be something that we could do to get a better handle on this. >> i think it's something that good managers do do if they've got both problem employees in terms of -- >> maybe an executive order to that effect might help.
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thank you. i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. now recognize the gentle woman from the virgin islands for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good morning, everyone. thank you first, director jarvis, for the work that the park is doing. i had a meeting with you and some other members about the reports and books that you've been putting out regarding reconstruction, the underground railroad, and for the work that you have for opening the parks to young people, the fourth grade initiative. that's very important i think in the communities that the park is enlisted to be around. one of the concerns that i have and i think that is an underlying issue with the park is not just the misconduct of its employees but the misconduct from the employees' perspective is really related to a disregard i think for individuals that are not in senior management potentially or not even
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necessarily part of the park service itself. in the virgin islands as you know the park plays an int will integral role in our community. it takes up large masses of land, particularly on the island of st. john, the entire buck island, the water way surrounding the virgin islands abut or are incorporated by the national park service. and so the relationship that we have with the park is very, very important, and one of the things that i hear continually from my constituents is a pervasive disregard and notable disconnect between the park and its local employees as well as the local government and, in fact, the people of the virgin islands. and i wanted to talk with you about that. i've had some very substantive conversations with the regional director stan austin. i think that he's making headways in some of this regard. but i can't miss an opportunity
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with you being here to address some of these and maybe you can speak as well to this. first of all, the national park receives funding for youth conservation corps, ycc, which is a source of income for the children in those communities, is an opportunity for young people to learn about the park, and potentially train them to be excited about careers that involve the national park. and this would then create a relationship between the park and its local people. and another reason why this is so important is because of the enabling legislation here in congress that created the virgin islands national parks. and one of the main components of that that i continually hear from our constituents is language that says that the secretary, meaning secretary of the interior, is authorized and directed to the maximum extent feasible to employ and train residents of the virgin islands to develop, maintain, and
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administer the virgin islands national parks. i don't know if you're aware of this particular piece of language. are you aware of it, director jarvis? >> yes but not how it's been implemented. but i am aware of it. >> and reading that particular language, how do you, to the extent feasible, employ individuals and direct them to develop, maintain and administer the virgin islands national park if individuals that are from the virgin islands who are not part of the closed national park system can't apply for employment within the national parks? >> well, fortunately, congress has given us a couple of new hiring authorities, most recently, that give us a much greater ability to do direct hire at the local level into permanent employment. for a long time, it has been very difficult for local hires
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to sort of break into federal service. but recently office of personnel management, the public land corps legislation has allowed us that young people working as seasonals for the national park service, which is a fairly easy bar to get in because we hire about 8,000 seasonals a year, or if you serve in a youth conservation corps position like a public land corps, you can obtain essentially career status noncompetitive status. >> that's an interesting point that you raise about the youth conservation corps because the virgin islands has used that in the past. and on the island of st. croix it's an active engagement but on st. john where the relationship with the park is much more intrinsic and much more involved there has not been an active youth conservation corps, although they have received the funding for it for a number of years. they he have stopped in fact
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utilizing this for the local kid that are there on the island of st. john. what's the reason for that? >> i think's a mistake. and i have talked to regional director austin specifically about it. and, you know, congresswoman, it's an issue in san juan, puerto rico. it's an issue as you mentioned in the virgin islands. it's an issue in alaska with native alaskans. it's also an issue in the west in working with young people. >> excuse me. if you would allow my indulgence, mr. chairman. i don't care it's a mistake. it's a mistake that has had very severe consequences to people on st. john. on the island of the st. croix, you're employing more students a year. on st. john you have hired no one for a number of years on the island of st. john. where this park is very important. that then affects the individuals who are at the park. the superintendent on st. john
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as well has had changes made on to the national park in terms of access to land, construction plans, closure of fishing boundaries without community input and proper notification of the people of st. john or the local government as well. is this a mistake as well? and why are the people of the virgin islands being subjected to these continued mistakes by the park? >> it is something that we are addressing very specifically. and i apologize that to you. it is not our intent to disregard in any way, shape or form the people of st. onor any of the islands. we think that they know the islands better than we do. they know the resources. they know the history. they've lived it. and we need them to be a part of the national park service and this is something that we are addressing aggressively through the southeast region. >> mr. chairman, just so you're aware and i would love to hold
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the record open, when i talked about lack of access to private properties, since 1989, with hurricane hugo from 1989 individuals living on the island of st. john have not had access to their own private property because that access is landlocked by the national parks. and repeated requests by our local legislature, our government and individuals have not afforded them the ability to even visit the land that they live on because they have not the parks, the management of the park, the superintendent, have not thought it's a priority to allow them to have public access to that. >> you have a great deal of sympathy from me. we have similar issues out west. we recognize the gentleman from arizona for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman. director jarvis, my state of arizona is no stranger to national parks. in fact, we're talking about one today. we're the home of 22 national park units including monuments, historical sites, parks and
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more. as a result of the outsized impact national parks and mon sumts have on the land management economy and everyday lives of my constituents in arizona, the seemingly careless management economy and everyday lives of my constituents in arizona, the seemingly careless nature ever the national park service management of the deferred maintenance backlog really troubles me. it is reported that the growing tally of backlog infrastructure needs within the park service such as roads, bridges, visitors centers and campgrounds which need significant maintenance or repair has reached nearly $11.5 billion. is that number correct? >> yes, sir, that is correct. >> so one of the most significant projects in the backlog is the arlington memorial bridge just a few steps away from the national park service headquarters right here in washington, d.c. that bridge is in need of a $250 million overhaul, is that correct? >> that's correct. >> yet national park service officials who knew how dire the bridge situation was dropped the ball and nearly lost out on
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significant department of transportation funding assistance because they couldn't get their application paperwork on time. that's flat embarrassing. now, the national park service can't even manage what it has in its own front yard in washington, d.c., yet it expects the american people to trust it can manage hundreds of millions of acres spread across the furthest and far flung reaches of the american continent. on top of this, $11.5 billion heap of mismanagement and neglect, the administration continues to pile on millions of more acres of land to the problem through the national monument decoration using the an te techties. certain special interest acts have pushed the president to move 1.7 million acres in northern arizona out of successful management agreements by other federal, station t state and private entities and into the park service as the grand canyon watershed national monument. their intentions are clear. they want this designation in order to prevent hunting,
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mining, timber harvesting and grazing on this swath of land even if it means heaping more acres on to the queue of mismanaged acres. director jarvis, do you think it's wise to add millions of acres to the -- successfully overseen by other state and federal agencies? >> i think that the park service in its history has always grown both by act of congress and by the act of the president. i am a fiscal conservative and i do not like taking on new responsibilities to the national park service that impact our financial house. >> so let's get specific then. is the administration currently working on designating a new national monument in arizona? >> that is a power of the white house. that is not -- >> let's get down to the dirties here. let's be even more specific. have you been approached in regards to the grand canyon watershed national monument by the administration? >> not by the administration. advocates have approached me, yes.
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>> any other areas in arizona? >> no, not that i remember. >> let me be more specific. how about the sanoren and southeastern western arizona? >> no. >> how about sedona? >> no, sir. >> my office currently has i foia request regarding this proposal and the coordination between land agencies and environmental groups. will that request collaborate the information you shared here today? >> it will for the national park service. i cannot speak for the rest of the department. >> okay. director jarvis, you and your agency mismanaged funding opportunities already right in front of you. you can't even maintain the infrastructure in your own backyard. the arlington memorial bridge is only 2,000 feet long and it's falling apart. you should not be handed over millions more acres via the antiquities act just to lock up in your agency's abysmal management. you may think that the national park has the capacity to control even more public land, but i have a list of 11.5 billion reasons why you are wrong.
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now, you said you were a conservative in that regard. you know, going back to the gentlelady from the virgin islands, doesn't your appropriations process, doesn't it show a lack of leadership by making sure the proper processes are appropriated and funded? >> no, sir. we make a request every year for appropriations to meet our needs and we get about half of what's -- >> no, no. let's go back. the gentlelady actually said the money actually went to those areas and they go to the west. why aren't they being appropriated to the proper protocols and having the proper oversight? >> well, i'm not aware specifically -- we're talking about ycc money versus maintenance backlog funding? sir, we have an $11 billion backlog in maintenance because we only get about half annually what we need to keep up. >> are you telling me there's no inadequacies within your process of oversight and adjudication of
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those moneys? >> we are putting every dollar we have as a priority into our maintenance backlog including our roads and bridges through the federal transportation bill. but we did not receive adequate funding in the federal transportation bill to address the backlogs of even one bridge, arlington bridge. >> i thank the gentleman. >> thank the gentleman. now recognize the gentlewoman from the district of columbia, miss norton, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i do appreciate this hearing. i do want to say especially considering that i'm a former chair of the equal employment opportunity commission, it distresses me to hear that the park service has what appears to be a systemic problem of sexual harassment. it does seem to me it calls for action at the highest level, not simply to process complaints and make sure they are handled fairly. and i hope you will take that as your mission. it's interesting that my
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colleague asked about the arlington national bridge. i was certainly going to ask you about that. then chastises you for not funding. i mean, how can congress really do this? the park service -- the bridge, the arlington memorial bridge, that is used to go to arlington cemetery. it is also the gateway from the south. that bridge, alone, needs to be rebuilt. the cost will be $250 million. everybody in this region is trying to get that money, $250 million, and yet the park service has appropriated by this congress in the fast act, the last bill, $268 million for 4,500 miles of unpaved road,
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1,400 bridges and i haven't exhausted the list. it is time the congress stops beating up on agencies when the congress, itself, is at the root of the problem. you put $268 million in for the entire country and then you beat the park service about the head and shoulders for not keeping the memorial bridge up. my goodness, it takes a lot of nerve not to look at ourselves and see where the problem also is. the arlington memorial bridge is not a case of mismanagement. it's a case of no funds to rebuild it. now, mr. jarvis, the federal highway administration says it's going to close this bridge that
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leads to the arlington cemetery within five years if it's not rebuilt. do you think it will last five years? it gives you five years to rebuild the bridge. you've already shut down some traffic on the bridge. how much longer does this bridge -- is it one of the older of the busiest bridges in your inventory? >> we have a lot of old bridges throughout our inventory, but this is the most expensive and most complicated and highest use bridge in the national park system so it is our number one priority. it was our number one priority in the reauthorization to the transportation bill in terms of request for funds for these kinds of high-profile project that are in serious condition.
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based on the federal highway administration's engineering assessment which was being done regularly, the bridge is subject to eminent closure in 2021, but we did do some emergency stabilization on it with federal highway so it will last to -- >> director jarvis -- >> -- 2021. >> director jarvis, with a lot of work with the senators from this region, we were able to get an application in. will that fully fund the bridge? and if not, where will the money come from? >> so we are -- thank you. it was the district of columbia that co-signed our application that was a requirement, and that was really what all of the effort was, was to get either the commonwealth of virginia or the district of columbia -- >> and mind you, this is a virginia bridge, but go ahead. >> i'll let you debate that, the virginia congressman. >> senator warner was very helpful. >> you're all very helpful, and
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ultimately we did get an application in and we are currently discussing with the federal highways administration a schedule for repair to this bridge that we'll -- >> where will the rest -- how much funds -- there's an application in to the park service. what will that fund? and will that take care of it? and if not, where will the rest come from? >> i do not know how much the federal highways is willing to put up for this bridge. there are various scenarios based on how much they can put up annually. there's a lot of applications out there for this money. all across the country. with a lot of bridges, as you know, the infrastructure in our nation has a lot of challenges. so there's a lot of competition. but i do think we have a very strong commitment from the federal highways administration to work with us to come up with a schedule that will repair the bridge and minimize the impact of traffic.

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