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President of Pacific Institute returns to post after absence

Peter Gleick, a Bay Area scientist, returns after a three-month leave prompted by his admission that he had assumed a false identity to obtain climate change documents.

June 08, 2012|By Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times

Peter Gleick, an internationally known Bay Area scientist, has returned to his post as president of the Pacific Institute after a three-month leave of absence prompted by his admission that he had assumed a false identity to obtain documents from a conservative think tank that questions global warming.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Pacific Institute's board of directors said outside counsel had conducted an independent investigation that "supported what Dr. Gleick has stated publicly regarding his interaction with the Heartland Institute. This independent investigation has further confirmed and the Pacific Institute is satisfied that none of its staff knew of or was involved in any way."

Gleick, a widely quoted expert in water and climate change issues, came under a cloud in February when he admitted that he had obtained internal board documents from Heartland by assuming a false identity. He then leaked the papers, which discussed Heartland's fundraising strategy and climate program, to selected media.

He apologized at the time, saying his actions amounted to "a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics," sparked by frustration with efforts to undermine climate science.

Gleick took a leave of absence while his board looked into the matter. He was dropped as a contributor to some blogs, and some commentators said he had permanently tarnished his reputation.

Heartland lost some financial support after environmental activists pressured corporate donors identified in the board papers.

"As near as we can tell, this was not an investigation. It was a whitewash," Heartland President Joseph Bast said Thursday in a statement. "The Pacific Institute's board of directors has failed to perform its duty and should be deeply ashamed. We have asked the federal government to prosecute Gleick for what we believe were serious crimes he committed, and we await its decision."

A spokeswoman for the Oakland-based Pacific Institute said that a California firm that specializes in workplace issues, Independent Employment Counsel, investigated Gleick's conduct for the board.

"I am glad to be back and thank everyone for continuing their important work at the Pacific Institute during my absence," Gleick said in a statement.

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