Iowa Public Television


Former Forest Service Official Accuses Agency of Firing Him for Blowing Whistle

posted on August 10, 2007

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - A former U.S. Forest Service official has sued the federal government, saying it wrongfully fired him after he came forward with allegations of pesticide misuse in forests across the Southwest.

Doug Parker, who worked as the pesticide coordinator and assistant director of forestry health for the agency's Southwestern region, wants a jury to hear his story and his job back.

``I have a fierce resolve to see this through, to correct what they did to me,' said Parker, who worked for the agency for nearly four decades before being fired in September 2005.

According to the lawsuit, Parker became the subject of hostile treatment by his supervisors after complaining about what he called a ``systemic problem' when it came to proper pesticide use across several forests in New Mexico and Arizona.

Parker had accused some managers of not preparing environmental risk assessments and failing to get approval from agency officials who had the authority to make decisions about pesticides.

While forest officials have remained mum on Parker's case, they have maintained that all projects involving pesticides and herbicides undergo a process to ensure that the public is involved and that requirements spelled out by federal law are met.

Art Morrison, a spokesman for the Forest Service in Albuquerque, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture's office of general counsel has not yet received a copy of Parker's lawsuit. He couldn't comment further.

In addition to seeking a jury trial, Parker's lawsuit asks the court to reverse a decision reached in June by the federal government's Merit Systems Protection Board upholding his firing.

The lawsuit claims the board's decision was ``an abuse of discretion, contrary to law and unsupported by substantial evidence.'

The board's decision details the bitter relationship between Parker and his immediate supervisor, as well as the back-and-forth exchanges between the two that eventually resulted in Parker being suspended three times in eight months for allegedly failing to follow his supervisor's instructions and for not properly formatting progress reports.

Parker maintains that he developed a pesticide training program as requested, despite not having any funding for the work, and that he provided information on his progress as requested by his supervisor.

He said the suspensions and his eventual firing over what he called ``minor formatting issues' amounted to reprisal for speaking out about potential problems.

Parker said his supervisor had never complained about his performance before the agency started to use pesticides in the region in 2003. He also noted that his record as a 39-year employee was clean.

``The adverse actions occurred only as the pesticide program grew and were directly related to me as the messenger of bad news,' Parker said.

Tags: courts forests government news pesticides