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By: MargieKieper , 6:38 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Even though Friday morning Bill Proenza was saying in news interviews that he would not resign, by Friday afternoon, on a widely-distributed AP article:
Bill Proenza said in an interview Friday that he has no intention of resigning, but will step down if his bosses feel it is best for the center and the public.But...wouldn't stepping down be...kind of like...resigning?
In a CNN interview tonight, Proenza again said he would step down if he had to. So there you have it. Some kind of a deal has undoubtably been worked out with NOAA management today, and either Proenza will be gone very shortly, perhaps by Monday, or after the two-week period has elapsed when the NHC assessment has been completed, or he will be taking a leave of absence for those two weeks until that time, or something similar. And that resignation will probably include some kind of gag order to not talk about NHC or NOAA.
About three hours after I posted this, the Sun Sentinel posted a story along similar lines, in the wee hours of Saturday morning (so...I happened to be up), titled "NHC Director Bill Proenza May Quit," with this lead:
As forecasters escalated their public attacks on the chief of the National Hurricane Center, accusing him of being both unqualified and unresponsive, an embattled Bill Proenza acknowledged Friday he would leave if his bosses asked him to. Proenza had previously refused calls for his resignation.And my suspicions on this count were confirmed:
Also Friday, several center employees said a surprise investigation of the center's management likely was initiated by Proenza's subordinates, not his superiors, as the center director has contended...What nobody expected...was for Proenza to make the investigation public and then say he was being attacked from above.And, ouch:
"He portrays himself as a David vs. Goliath, fighting for the little people, but that is not true. He's more Chicken Little," said Jorge, a 22-year veteran of the center. "These guys are not mad because Bill is speaking out. It's the fact that he misrepresents facts and information."
Additional details on the situation at NHC came out earlier in a Friday evening Miami Herald article, including this:
Senior forecaster Rick Knabb told Proenza by email that Proenza had publicly misrepresented remarks made by Knabb during a private conversation this week, and "I will no longer meet or talk with you in private."Along the same lines of what I emphsized this morning, two veteran tropical meteorologists, former Hurricane Specialist Miles Lawrence and former HRD head Hugh Willoughby, both commented on the professionalism of NHC staff and on the ability to provide quality forecasts, in spite of the current turmoil at the NHC.
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Putting Things in Perspective: Yesterday in an article in the Palm Beach Post, Congressman Klein referred to QuikSCAT as, "the premier hurricane tracking satellite." This calls for a reality check.
I'm not really sure if any one satellite could be called the "premier" satellite -- but if one had to be selected, it would be the one that gives us this:
and this: and this:
every half hour -- GOES -- not the one that gives us this:
twice a day.
Lixion Avila put it this way, in interviews with NHC staff aired on CBS-4, "It's like having a BMW with leather seats. If you don't have leather seats, that BMW is going to run."
And there is still the ongoing mystery about who the "Institute for Emergency Management" is, and how a bizarrely inaccurate statement from them came to be entered into the Congressional Record, here and here, along with two newspaper articles, as background for justification of the QuikSCAT legislation. Note in particular the section, "WHY HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT CANNOT REPLACE THE QUIKSCAT." Who wrote it? Who was responsible for providing this as one of the touchstones for members of Congress who wanted to familiarize themselves with the necessity of replacing this particular satellite at this particular time?
* * * * * * *
This week Senior Hurricane Specialist James Franklin has taken the lead in speaking for the NHC employees. James is reserved and scholarly and a remarkably skilled meteorologist, with a wonderful sense of humor and exceptional writing skills. It took a lot of courage for him to step into the public spotlight. I can tell you that the step to share their side of the situation with the public was a last resort, and only taken after coming to the conclusion that it was completely necessary, and the right thing to do. Being in the media spotlight in this manner is not a comfortable thing for any of them, and not something they would have chosen if they had felt that they had any other option.
I have read many of the comments made to many of the news articles online. I have seen some terrible things said in these comments, which are mostly, but not all, anonymous. There is one thing in particular that I would like to emphasize -- not a one of the senior forecasters has any kind of investment in trying to remove Bill Proenza in order to have the job himself. This speculation is patently untrue. I can also tell you that every single person at NHC is a consumate professional, and they will turn out the very best forecasts that they can regardless of any situation at NHC, and regardless of their personal views on this or any other situation.
James spoke simply and eloquently on the CBS-4 interviews this morning, which were quoted extensively in the press, including Reuters:
"We did that very reluctantly, to go to the press. We have been trying to work these issues with Bill since he has gotten here, we have been trying to work these issues through the system. The Department of Commerce special team that came down here last week was here because we have been trying to work these issues, quietly, in the system. But we were afraid that our feelings were not going to be adequately carried back to the Department of Commerce, and we wanted them to know how strongly so many of the staff felt about what was going on here, about how difficult it was getting for us to do our jobs here. * the comments referred to in this morning's Miami Herald article are below:
"We wanted them to know unambiguously that we needed Bill to leave. He has misrepresented the views of his staff repeatedly, chronically, he's done it again in today's comments in the Herald.* The people who signed that letter are not afraid of losing their jobs. What they are afraid of is not being able to do their jobs effectively, to protect the American people from tropical cyclones.
"This is the same staff that worked so hard and came together as a family so well during Katrina and Rita and Wilma and the 2004 storms and the 2005 storms. This is the same staff and we want to be able to continue to do that, but Bill has poisoned the atmosphere here at the hurricane center.
"We're a small group. We have an enormous responsibility; we are responsible for the safety of millions and millions of people that we don't know. And where there are key events we pull together as a family to do that; we did it under Max and we did it under the directors before him.
"But he has divided the staff, he has been dismissive of the staff, he doesn't respect the staff. He lies about what we say. And it was time for us to very clearly state that there are two sides to this story, and that's why we made the statement that we made....There are staff members that will not meet with him in private, because they are afraid that he will lie or misrepresent what was said."
[Proenza] blamed nearly all of the turmoil on the actions of his bosses, particularly the ''extraordinary disruption'' caused by the inspection launched by five federal officials, including an attorney versed in personnel matters.The Miami Herald article this morning characterized Proenza as angry, and he said that he would not resign.
"That triggered a frenzy of concern [within his staff] about mission deliver and-or one's career," he said.
"I have employees tell me, 'Bill, I am so much for you and for what you've brought in. But I'm so afraid that if I'm viewed to be with you and you leave, then I'm viewed as being in the wrong camp,' " Proenza said.
Numerous articles in the press this afternoon quote Proenza as saying he was assured he still had his job after talking to NOAA management on the phone this morning. But don't take that to be any indication that NOAA has resolved the issue. It can't be a good thing when the first thing you have to do in the morning when you go to work, is to call your boss to find out if you still have a job. And NOAA has already said they will do nothing until the special team that conducted a review of the NHC has submitted their report on July 20th. That's two weeks away...on a Friday. Maybe that would be a good day to call in sick?
Proenza's pension is protected by Federal law, and so he would not be sacrificing retirement by staying, even if NOAA removes him from the job. It is also interesting to note that Proenza has taken the time to mention in several media interviews that he wants to be director for "five years." This was after he certainly knew the path down which this imbroglio was headed. Proenza has nothing to lose and possibly a severance package to gain, by staying at NHC, if his leaving is inevitable.
However, NHC will certainly lose.
* * * * * * *
A summary of the news from last night:
Thursday evening update: Today a large number of the staff at the TPC/NHC signed a petition asking for Bill Proenza to be replaced as NHC Director -- again documented by the Miami Herald. This was done off-site and not all the employees were able to be contacted regarding the petition. However a large majority of the employees who were contacted, about 70%, did sign the petition.
This morning, HRD discussed the matter at an all-hands meeting, and unanimously supports Proenza. Of course, none of the HRD employees work for Proenza, so I am not sure how this vote of confidence would factor into any decision on Proenza's tenure, and it seems that NOAA has already set in motion the actions that will lead to resignation or termination. I may have more information regarding HRD's point of view tomorrow.
It was very interesting that Proenza's own administrative staff signed the petition. Many people at the center have had difficulties working with Proenza, and this factored heavily into some of the decisions. This is unfortunate because this past six months should have been the time to establish a rapport and good working relationship with the staff, and it is telling that not only the Senior Hurricane Specialists and other senior staff, but the administrative staff as well, are willing to go on record as stating that they would prefer a new NHC Director. It does appear that the concerns about whether Proenza can be an effective manager are valid ones, as it is hard to imagine how so many people could take this extreme position without there being quite a bit of substance to their concerns.
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One of the odd changes that has been made at NHC is that the personnel page, which used to be headed "Tropical Prediction Center Staff" with the hurricane specialists as the only personnel comprising the NHC, has been changed under Proenza with the entire staff being listed as "National Hurricane Center Staff." It appears that one of the changes Proenza was implementing was systematically eliminating any reference to TPC (recall one of the items in the "reprimand memo" was the fallout from directing forecasters to replace the words "Tropical Prediction Center" with "National Hurricane Center" on the label of the March 4th high seas forecast).
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