The revival inside NOAA of the career of Dale J. Jones, sacked as law enforcement director in 2010 amid revelations of document shredding and abuse of the badge at the expense of the fishing industry, has produced widespread denunciations and provided a moment of bipartisan agreement in Massachusetts' own U.S. Senate fight.
Responding to the news that Jones had been put in charge of a sophisticated, high priority program to open NOAA data portals to stakeholders, Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his challenger, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, each issued statements to the Times on Thursday agreeing on the indefensibility of the choice of Jones to launch the Enterprise Data Management program.
They were joined in that view by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, Congressmen Barney Frank and John Tierney, Mayor Carolyn Kirk, former New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, and state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester.
Ferrante's activism in 2009 linked the aggrieved fishing industry with the political worlds of Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill, and sparked an inspector general's probe that cracked open the scandal, convincing NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco to move Jones out of the law enforcement director's office.
At that time, Lubchenco shifted Jones into a continued NOAA role as fisheries analyst, and NOAA officials have indicated that firing Jones would be extremely difficult, given service protections.
"It's outrageous that someone with Dale Jones' record of abuse has not only kept a highly paid job at NOAA but has now actually been awarded additional responsibilities," said Brown.
"This is ridiculous," said Warren, who is challenging Brown for the Senate state. "When someone has engaged in mismanagement and unfair enforcement, giving him another high-paying job instead of firing him makes no sense."
Late Thursday, NOAA spokesman Justin Kenney said Lubchenco "was unaware of the decision (to put Jones in charge of the Enterprise Data system) and is currently reviewing it."
Congressman Frank, who has mentored Warren and worked harmoniously with Brown in fisheries enforcement and policy fights with Lubchenco, said he would determine what federal guidelines were being used to rationalize not firing Jones in the past for allowing agents to target fishermen, gather inflated fines and then use the proceeds for improper foreign travel and rolling and floating stock.
Frank, Brown, Tierney and Congressman Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, have, at different times, all called for the dismissal of Lubchenco as well.
"I was disappointed to learn that Dale Jones has been given new responsibilities given how badly he discharged the ones he had," said Frank. "This confirms my sense that something is wrong when someone with his record could not be disciplined appropriately.
"I now plan to look very carefully at the reasons the Department of Commerce could not discipline Mr. Jones, and if there are statutory bars preventing such action I will work to remove them," Frank added.