TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

National Weather Service fires top manager over public comments

About The Tribune-Review
The Tribune-Review can be reached via e-mail or at 412-321-6460.
Contact Us | Video | Photo Reprints

Daily Photo Galleries


By The Washington Post

Published: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 5:28 p.m.

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

Most-Read Nation

  1. Oregon reservoir to be flushed because of urinating teen
  2. Denver wife killed 12 minutes into 911 call, sparking inquiry
  3. NRA challenges gun control efforts case by case
  4. Probation officer of suspect in slaying of North Allegheny graduate resigns
  5. Nevada standoff over cattle ends as feds back down
  6. IRS told to revisit grab of refunds to settle old tax debts
  7. Social Security drops debts older than 10 years
  8. Subsitute for Pap smear scorned; overtreatment cited
  9. Immigration activists threaten Obama, Democrats
  10. Study says regular pot use affects the brain
  11. Brutal CIA tactics deemed ‘valuable’ despite findings of leaked Senate report
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.