By DON CUDDY
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its embattled head Dr. Jane Lubchenco are again the target of criticism after the director of the National Weather Service, Jack Hayes, resigned abruptly on Memorial Day weekend.
An environmental watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), informed the Washington Post when it learned that Hayes had been replaced and the story has since been widely reported.
An internal investigation has uncovered ongoing financial irregularities at the weather service, according to a NOAA memo. In fiscal 2012 alone, up to $35 million may have been "reprogrammed," the term employed by NOAA to describe what has taken place, the memo said.
"This is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, a national organization of federal, state and local employees who work in the environmental field. Structural deficits were built into the National Weather Service budget according to Ruch. "They were using appropriated funds to backfill general operations in a sort of budgetary Ponzi scheme," he said.
A 60-page report produced by NOAA found that, for at least the past two years, the agency has been shifting appropriated funds from a number of its designated programs and using them to cover other expenses and to help avoid employee furloughs, according to Ruch.
Using appropriated funds for any purpose other than what is intended is a violation of the Anti Deficiency Act and that is a crime, he said.