Investigation Of Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Finds Cybertracks to Pornographic Images

An investigation into Gettysburg National Military Superintendent John Latschar turned up more than it expected to. NPS photo.

A lengthy investigation into allegations that Gettsysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latschar acted unethically in running the park found no wrongdoing, but it reportedly turned up thousands of instances in which the superintendent's computer was used to access pornographic images.

The report (attached below) by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General detailed a litany of charges against Superintendent Latschar, ranging from misappropriating park dollars for a hot tub at his home to coercing employees to donate their accumulated leave time to his wife, a park employee. After interviewing more than 45 individuals and reviewing "thousands of pages of public and private documents" the investigators cleared the superintendent of any wrongdoing.

However, while the 24-page report mentioned searching the superintendent's office computer for emails tied to the allegation that he asked employees to donate their unused leave time to his wife, it was silent on the discovery of more than 3,400 Internet searches for sexually explicit content. The Washington Post, however, said that it had obtained an internal memo to then-acting Park Service Director Dan Wenk that mentioned the discovery.

In an article published Monday the newspaper reported that:

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."

A call to the National Park Service's Washington headquarters for comment was not immediately returned.

AttachmentSize
OIA-Latschar.pdf541.63 KB

Comments

I am a to each his own type person. However there is a time and place for everything. Latschar should really use some of that $145,000 salary to buy a personal laptop. He seems to think he can do what he wants when he wants.

As a former long-term NPS employee I am grieved by the extent and by the general sleezieness of Latschar's conduct. The fact that the Bush-era "ETHICS" board would have approved such a clearly unethical arrangement is beyond belief. The fact that Latschar could have downloaded that much porn when rank and file employees could not even get on to many legitimate research search engines just goes to show how far NPS has sunk and how currupt the system has become. HELLO Obama Administration, time to take the NPS back to being a government agency above politics and curruption.

Not every governmental agency is squeaky clean or full of lies and hypocrisy. At least let's hope that we can do a lot better then the last administration. And, we all can be thankful for the fact that we now have a new national parks director that carries a code of ethics that shines better then the last two. At this point, I would demote Superintendent Latschar or shanghai him to a national park that has less exposer.

I read this in the Washington Post today; and I thought at first whatever, we are human. At least he was honest and ethical as nothing is even near in truth of what appeared to be the original allegations against him. I wondered if he could or will sue those making those complaints; if you have been through BS like that - you would understand.

But then I read the posts here by chance and.....what the heck!

TO THE FiRST poster:
First - - you obviously do not understand computers and the numbers mentioned versus hits, searches, etc. And was it a laptop and did he use it from home or on travel where the net connection was not Gov-owned? And were they from him or the last person to use it? Initially it can look bad, but then when you consider the crap the typical PC will pick up as Temp files from loading one page, it may not be as serious as it appears.
Second - I am impressed as you must personally know the Almighty himself (or herself) as from this very small amount of information you are somehow able to make a huge judegment about him, much less think you are so beyond reproach that you in fact should be allowed to make such a decision or comment.
Third - the wording of your comments make it sound like you perhaps have a personal grudge. Maybe it used to be you computer and those were your searches and you were disciplined for it??? Or maybe you were one of some that had made a complaint against them??? And you are upset that none if it was true and are just happy to see something totally unrelated used to ping the dude instead??
Fourth - I have read about so much BS about this park and the new center that it makes me sick (I live south of there) - in fact - it appears that many people living on the public's back were RIF or retired because of the way the "system" actually change for the better for once. Were you perhaps one of them??? What - should Obama make it into a welfare Park again for your benefit??? Even though you work for the Government, you still have to actually do that "work" thing also......
Fifth - from what I hear is that he did get some time off for that sole violation. And he did it to get the all of the BS behind him - he would not file a complaint against the NPS nor file suit against those making false allegations (to spare the Park anymore distractions), and he would simply take the punishment for the Internet stuff even though they said he did not believe it was all from him.

I am fairly informed of news, esp local news. And simply put - nothing even was remotely found to be unethical about him....thats something good, esp for a NPS director. ....

Oh yeah - as someone that works for a different Fed Agency - I think it woudl be neat to see the identity of the leak and put him on the street perm, jailed for IG report violation, and sued by the Latchar guy. Hehe.

This comment was edited. -- Ed
.

" ... or shanghai him to a national park with less exposer (sic). "
I think that is a solution all too often employed by the NPS. Too many parks suffer from less than adequate leadership because the powers that be just shuffle the problems around, often promoting them to affect the necessary shuffle, rather than growing a pair and firing the ne'er-do-wells that have no business inhabiting their positions of great responsibility.

The fact that this man was "cleared of all charges" (and remains in his job despite clear evidence that he misuses government property) does not speak only to NPS corruption, it speaks to corruption that infects ALL Federal agencies.
Proper discipline of wrongdoing and poor performance is sorely lacking in the NPS, because it's feared that the accused will litigate their way to job security. Or because the accused are too well connected to money makers that pick up the tabs our government should be paying. (HELLO MR. LATSCHAR! THE GETTYSBURG FOUNDATION PUT YOU IN POWER, IS THIS ANY WAY TO REPAY THEM??)

I long for a day when managers and administrators of our Federal agencies, the NPS included, regain the courage to support ethics in the workplace, rather than cower in the corner for fear of litigation, or damaging financially lucrative "partnerships".

... If you move problem people around, you move their problems right along with them. I've heard of this happening before - they won't be doing the next park any favors. The powers that be should deal with their problem children right away ...

This comment was edited.-- Ed.

It is always Bush's fault when someone does not like something that happened in the last four years. I believe that the man discussed above was appointed to his position during the first term of that very clean individual in his own right, Bill Clinton. He had nothing to hide.

RE:"The fact that the Bush-era "ETHICS" board would have approved such a clearly unethical arrangement is beyond belief. The fact that Latschar could have downloaded that much porn when rank and file employees could not even get on to many legitimate research search engines just goes to show how far NPS has sunk and how currupt the system has become. HELLO Obama Administration, time to take the NPS back to being a government agency above politics and curruption."

Typical hypocritical political response. Sorry to burst your holier then thou bubble, But Lastchar was appointed to the superintendent position in 1994. I figured a self-proclaiming, long-term employee of the NPS would know that? I wonder, what was the name of that administration?

Oh yeah, you misspelled corruption...

MV

Well, it's certainly visible now.

Perhaps the new regime could put in some brighter light bulbs in the transparancy viewer.

Suffice to say this is an extremely delicate issue. As a result, some comments were edited for taste, some for clarity.

It must be remembered throughout that the Inspector General's Office cleared Mr. Latschar of all charges of misconduct. As to the instances of surfing the Internet inappropriately, neither Mr. Latschar nor the National Park Service is commented, so we are not privy to all the details.

Kurt, to paraphrase Rick's more tasteful comment, you're the one in charge of the light bulbs in this forum's transparency viewer. We may not be privy to all the details, but the facts as you've presented them paint a dark and creepy picture. I appreciate your effort not to cast an overly rosy light on these issues. I for one like how you try to keep it real, and appreciate the opportunity to participate.

Bat, as the joke in the news business goes, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Indeed, outwardly this story doesn't look good for Mr. Latschar. Obviously, there are a number of gray areas that need closer investigation by the Park Service, and not just the misuse of a government computer. But let me play devil's advocate for the most damning revelation -- What if someone other than the superintendent used his computer to surf the Internet, but for whatever reason there was just cause in Mr. Latschar's mind that he should take the blame? To firmly jump to the final conclusion, I think we need full disclosure from Mr. Latschar and the Park Service, and both have made it clear they're not going there.

Among the comments, there is also some confusion of the various issues.

[The various Gettysburg projects have been under attack, and Superintendent John Latschar with them, for many years, and apparently with everything that came to the opponent's hand. Almost no one survives such forceful attacks at so many levels for very long, even if the higher-ups completely support the person under attack. Most people do not experience this kind of attack for so many years, 3 times longer than the length of the Civil War, and Superintendent Latschar has handled the pressure better sometimes than some other times. Generally, you move good employees around before they get broken. It might be true that most other, incoming, employees would not even have tried to fix the interpretation at Gettysburg, and if Latschar had left after the normal 5 or so years, the projects would have died. One time, when Senator Santorum of PA was defending the Superintendent to the NPS leadership that wanted to remove him, the Senator said: "You say you want initiative and innovation, but what signal do you send when you pull out the rug from everyone who really tries to solve the problems? The signal you are sending is to sit back, take your salary, and do nothing."]

The issue about the Ethics review relates to the Superintendent retiring to take over the Foundation that runs and constructed the Visitor Center.

That group came into existence as a result of an RFP process run by the NPS. The RFP process was not run by Superintendent Latschar, but nearly everything else was, before and all agreements afterward. Because it is basic to any knowledge of the Ethics rules that you cannot take over an operation run by an organization that has operating agreements with the government agency when you were the key official implementing those agreements, it astonished most everybody that the Regional Director and the Ethics review group would have sanction it.

Yes, in some cases it is OK when you can occasionally simply exempt yourself as the decider for specific conflicts of interests, but when on a day in day out basis you are working within the agreement that previously as a government official you signed off on, that is not possible.

Interestingly, had the Superintendent wanted to support and work for the foundation after retirement, he could have done so if he were willing to accept a role where he is not the signing authority and where he is not the beneficiary of a contract he previously managed.

For example, some NPS people raise funds for Foundations, are not in charge of the foundation, and do not manage one of their prior agreements with the foundation. They just want to work in an area they believe in, but not run it.

-- By the way, on the 'donated leave' issue, everyone is notified when someone is sick and needs donated leave to be paid while under treatment or convalescence. But if you actually donate the leave, that is confidential information and the Superintendent would not actually know who did and who did not donate. So that one seems like a pretty empty charge.

I love the first sentence involving ethics "......found no wrong doing, but..." I guess some guys like to read the news or National Park Traveler when they surf the net and some like to look at porn. I prefer the former.

Correction - He was cleared of any "criminal" misconduct.

Something I do not understand. The superintendent of Yosemite recently retired and took the job of director of the Yosemite Fund. The superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley retired and took the job of director of the Cuyahoga Valley association. Why couldn't Latscher do the same thing? How come they were allowed to do that?

The superintendent of Cuyahoga Valley NP did not take the job of director.

He took the job as head of fundraising. He is not the signing authority for the Cuyahoga Valley association. If there were a conflict between NPS and the association in implementing a cooperative agreement between the two organizations, an agreement he was involved in developing as Superintendent, he almost never would be directly affected. And, on those occasions when he might be affected, he could much more easily recuse himself from any wrangling. He would never represent the association in a court proceeding against the NPS.

I don't know about the Yosemite situation. There is a grey area in the perception of conflict of interest, conflicts of appearing to be directly managing or benefitting from agreements between the two cooperating organizations, when by recusing yourself from time to time might be able to take care of the problem. In other words by recusing yourself on those occasions when you were the decider on a specific project. It is a judgement call.

BUT:

If operating in your new job, through specific projects that you set up when you were previously the agency decider, and that is at the center of what you do, it would seem to give the appearance of a conflict of interest on all of your activities. It is hard in that case to simply recuse yourself, because it would be happening all the time. The impression I have is the reversal in the Gettysburg case came down to this sense that there would be a continuous sense of perception of conflict, and the arrangement therefore was unworkable.

D-2 is correct in regard to the case at Cuyahoga.

I wonder if one of the differences in the YOSE case is that the headquarters of the Foundation is in San Francisco. Tollefson would not be in the same close proximity to his successor as Latschar would have been.
After all, Gettysburg is a pretty small place. I know that I would have had some hesitation accepting that job knowing that John would have been in a office a mile or two away.

While I have not read either agreement, I get the sense that the Gettysburg agreement between the Foundation and the park envisions a much closer relationship than does the Yosemite agreement.

Rick Smith

Failure of leadership, plain and simple. Leaders model effective behaviors; John Latchser failed this foundational leadership precept. NPS management demonstrates a very poor understanding of leadership, its inherit qualities, how its developed, selected and cultivated. The current state of NPS mismanagement has resulted in lost agency reputation, and this is a direct result of its poor leadership selections and development. Almost anyone is made a Superintendent today, regardless of any real leadership qualities. The NPS simply does not understand leadership.

As we have seen, contemporary NPS leadership is poor, at best. Examples abound, from the failure to execute mission based decision making, to endless moral failures, including sexual scandels to superintendents pandering away its primary resource protection mission to billionaires. The list is long and ugly. The NPS is not the agency we once knew; this generation of NPS leadership is failing...

It is disturbing to once again observe the "Superintendent Club" in full effect. Superintendents, as we know, are treated differently. It is no coincidence that this incident was omitted from the DOI IG investigative report, just as it was with FLETC Superintendent, Paul Henry pleading guilty to stealing .... firearms from FLETC. Oh, you hadn't heard that one? Ask yourself why? Some people are protected and they are Superintendents. We all know this. No other class of employee escapes serious conduct and performance issues like this group routinely does. It's the elephant in the room.

Secretary Salazar has pledged to clean house and restore the proud traditions of dedicated public service to the department and its agencies. I encourage you to remind him of his pledge. We need to restore the confidence of the American people in its park system. We need to restore the proud, dedicated and traditional NPS culture to the workplace, or this generation will be forever known as the one who squandered its well earned legacy and reputation - if its not too late.

A real leader would resign, while taking the opportunity to explain his decision to the troops. Using his failure to demonstrate leadership, a sound moral compass and institutional values, even in failure. We all fail, but real leaders fall uphill.

Editor's note: By the time the Paul Henry case was adjudicated, he had retired from NPS. He had been investigated on 1 misdemeanor count of theft of government property (2 weapons/15 magazines) in December 2008, according to NPS officials. The investigation and prosecution was conducted by the US Attorneys Office in Brunswick, GA. In March 2009, Henry pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 30 days home confinement, a $750 fine, and 2 years probation, according to the NPS.

Speaking just to the pronography allegations.

There is a table of penalties that the Department uses when dealing with common disciplinary situations. I wonder what it says about the misuse of government computers to view pornography. I don't think termination is the recommended action for the first offense...though a letter of reprimand might be.

Latschar's reassignment as special assistant to the NPS associate director for cultural resources is ironic. The National Academy of Public Administration report on NPS cultural resources highlighted the need for new leadership. That new NPS director Jon Jarvis would transfer Latschar to support the current associate director for cultural resources is not a good sign.

Dear Anonymous (no relation !) on your point about the reassignment under the cultural resources Associate Director.

Rather than 'not a good sign,' my reading of the way the bureaucracy works is just the opposite. This is a non-job, under an appointee of and prior friend of removed Director Mainella. The job is stationed in Frederick, MD., a non-place as far as the government Headquarters are concerned.

Again, this is a non-job. If as some say above that Mr. Latschar's transgression is not in itself a cause for removal, it is a place to go awaiting resignation, with no authority and no staff. Because of the nature of government rules, retirements usually occur at the beginning of the calendar year. There would have to be transition out of park housing. If you want to accomplish something with minimal fuss, minimal hoopla from someone who tends to speak too imphatically in interviews, this is a way to do that.

The person who thinks this superintendent is being protected, compared to an average employee is clearly wrong. No person who has had and used authority with the kind of zeal Mr. Latschar had wants to be in a place with nothing to do. He has lost his position immediately, while a usual case would involve employee counseling, training, performance reviews, and a chance to demonstrate improvement. They would keep their job. Mr. Latschar has lost his position and authority; unless there is truth to the rumor that he is either covering for someone else or his acceptance of the charges did not include some of the worse charges, his career is over.