WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 7, 2018) — The Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Interior (“OIG”) reached out proactively on November 1, 2018, to a Gettysburg newspaper to publicize uncorroborated negative information about Ed Clark, Superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park — but only after the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania had rejected OIG’s overtures to prosecute Mr. Clark.
The negative information was contained in an OIG report that was originally produced back in April 2017, looking into whether Mr. Clark failed to seek approval for trips or to account properly for expenses paid for by donors to the Park. The report does not allege that Mr. Clark personally benefited from any of these activities. After the U.S. Attorney refused to indict Mr. Clark, OIG sought instead to try him in the court of public opinion.
Mr. Clark is a client of The Employment Law Group® law firm.
Rather than being disheartened by OIG’s actions, Mr. Clark said he welcomes the report’s release. “I urge people to read the report as closely as the U.S. Attorney did,” he explained. “They will see why the U.S. Attorney passed on the OIG’s request to prosecute me.”
As an example, in several trips he took for work, Mr. Clark claimed a full per-diem reimbursement for expenses — but purportedly should have reduced the per diem to account for meals provided by the Park’s Foundation. These meals and functions are covered by Office of Government Ethics policy as being neither a gift to the individual nor to the agency, but as customary and necessary for the performance of official duties.
OIG’s report then criticized Mr. Clark for not seeking any reimbursement for seven of these meals. Mr. Clark did not believe it was proper to seek reimbursement, however, since the Foundation had paid for all his expenses.
Substantial evidence corroborates Mr. Clark’s statements that he coordinated these trips with multiple levels of the National Park Service (NPS) leadership, up to and including the NPS Director’s office in some instances.
Moreover, the report and transcripts of OIG’s interviews confirm that Mr. Clark’s actions were undertaken as part of his legitimate duties as Park Superintendent, which include supporting philanthropic organizations and donors. Despite NPS’s failure to provide timely guidance to Mr. Clark, OIG referred the matter to the Department of Justice — and then, after DOJ recognized that Mr. Clark had not committed any crime, contacted the news media.
NPS has a record of failing to provide guidance to park officials. Indeed, OIG recently circulated a report that detailed the agency’s lack of internal controls, oversight, and guidance regarding the use of donated funds from philanthropic partners. (DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL, Report No. 2017-WR-037 (Jan. 18, 2018)). This dearth of official guidance has permitted parks to use donated funds at their own discretion. At “nearly all” of the 31 parks investigated, OIG found, it was common for parks to purchase entertainment, food and beverages, and small gifts for employees using their donated funds.
In this environment, Mr. Clark repeatedly sought guidance from superiors and other officials. He was assured repeatedly that he was following proper protocols and doing, as his supervisor put it, “exactly what your agency expects you to do.” Given this, Mr. Clark wonders why an agency he has served for three decades suddenly sought to scapegoat him.
“At first, when OIG put its report online, I was upset at the mischaracterizations — as well as the inappropriate and unfounded accusations of committing criminal fraud,” he said. “But then supportive calls from coworkers and friends started coming in, with people saying they couldn’t believe what OIG was putting me through.” Multiple senior colleagues who work with Mr. Clark expressed shock after they read the report. A common reaction: There but for the grace of God, go I.
Mr. Clark intends to defend his career and his reputation to the end.
“The various non-profit partners, friends groups, and other philanthropic organizations are critical to the mission and success of the National Park Service,” he said. “Superintendents are the core of that endeavor. How the agency can aggressively push for philanthropic support for years, then completely abandon their superintendent corps, is shocking.”
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To speak with Mr. Clark, please contact Nicholas Woodfield at 202-261-2812 or [email protected].