National Weather Service fires top manager over public comments
WASHINGTON — The National Weather Service moved to fire one of its top managers Friday, four days after he was quoted in a story in The Washington Post lamenting that budget cuts and the threat of further reductions in March were forcing him to pare back a public safety service.
William Proenza and his supporters called his firing a retaliation for going public with a plan to shut down radars on sunny days in the South to save power costs. But the Weather Service's acting director said there was no such connection and, in his termination letter, she cited Proenza for transferring $528,000 between accounts last year without authorization.
Proenza, 68, led the Weather Service's Southern region and ends a 50-year career at the agency that included a controversial tenure as the head of Miami's National Hurricane Center, one of meteorology's most visible jobs.
Frequently outspoken about what he perceived as management missteps, he planned to limit radars to cover a $100,000 shortfall in his second-quarter budget.
He acknowledged in a front-page story Monday that the move could pose a danger to the public if an undetected storm passed through.
“It's penny-wise and pound-foolish to try and save a few dollars if you're going to degrade our capacity to deliver our mission,” Proenza told The Post, describing a less-than-optimal cost-cutting strategy as the financially challenged Weather Service braces for $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that may occur across the government on March 1.
On Friday, acting Weather Service Director Laura Furgione flew to Fort Worth, Tex., to deliver Proenza's notice of termination.
The stated reason for his firing dates to June 2012, when the agency was embroiled in a controversy over a widespread practice used by financial managers at Washington headquarters to deal with persistent deficits. Agency leaders siphoned money allocated for equipment, technology upgrades and other programs to fund salaries and day-to-day operations without permission from Congress. The practice, called “reprogramming,” has since stopped.
The issue forced the retirement of the Weather Service director and chief financial officer. Like other managers, Proenza's budget staff had moved $528,000 from a local forecasting account to pay for radars, a decision authorized by officials in Washington, e-mails show.
Moving money between funds to address budget shortfalls “was done routinely” throughout the Weather Service “because our budget is barely adequate,” he said. “No one ever did it with the intent to get advantage or profit from it.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lawmakers press Veterans Affairs for improved access to rural health care
- Natural gas royalties lawsuit hinges on transaction date
- Los Angeles police kill man in struggle captured on video
- 2 W.Va. coal operators sentenced in scheme
- Nurse who survived Ebola virus says Dallas hospital failed her
- GOP senators pledge help if court bars health care law subsidies
- Dead dog found in pickup truck in icy river
- Deadly bacteria release spurs concern at Louisiana lab
- California GOP officially recognizes 1st gay group
- No signs of deal on Homeland funding
- Study predicts 10 fuel train derailments a year