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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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.


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.

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?

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

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