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U.S. Punishes Pesticide Coordinator

THE NATION

May 28, 2005|From Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Forest Service has suspended an agency official who complained that some of its managers ignored environmental laws and rules for the spraying of pesticides and weed-killers on forests.

Doug Parker, assistant director of forestry and forest health for the agency's Southwestern region, is accused of failing to follow a direct order to train and certify employees each month in the use of the chemicals.

Parker, the region's pesticide coordinator, also is accused of failing to submit a progress report on the training.

Deputy Regional Forester Lucia Turner sent Parker a letter Thursday about the 10-day suspension and said further "misconduct" could get him fired. Parker's attorney, Dennis Montoya, gave a copy of the letter to the Associated Press.

Parker and Montoya said the suspension was reprisal for Parker speaking up about possible violations of law; Parker had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His earlier whistle-blower complaint cited a "systemic problem" when it came to proper pesticide use in the Southwestern Region.

Parker said officials had taken shortcuts on projects, such as not preparing environmental risk assessments and failing to get approval from the proper agency officials.

Montoya said Parker had been subjected to harassment, threats of disciplinary action, removal of duties and impossible demands from his supervisor after raising the concerns. Parker, under an order from his supervisor not to speak publicly about the matter, declined comment.

Forest Service spokesman Carl Holguin said it was agency policy not to comment on pending EEO investigations or personnel matters.

Holguin added that the Forest Service sought to follow the National Environmental Policy Act and other policies regulating pesticides. "We feel confident they're meeting all the requirements," he said.

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