Swartwood II. The referral to Special Master Charles B. Swartwood III's second report on these issues, and more.
After all, considering the recent report of Department of Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser, that would give the committee members the chance to address first hand the plight of Gloucester and New England fishermen who — according to the Inspector General's report, and a preliminary version of it at that — have been:
Treated like criminals by a rogue branch of their own government that, with seemingly no oversight, has agents apparently paid and directed as if they were part of some kind of criminal SWAT team, not civil enforcers of administrative regulations.
Been socked with assessment fines at least 250 percent higher than those meted out in other parts of the country.
Been hit with Notices of Violation for not having a controversial yellowtail flounder accessibility letter when landing fish at the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction — even though fishermen landing in New Bedford and other ports without the same letter were not penalized.
This was the beginning of the public seeing their government employees in action when it came to enforcement of US fishery law.
If Kucinich, Tierney and their oversight colleagues want to show fishermen they're serious about fixing the problem, their hearing(s) should not be in the U.S. Capitol, but right here in Gloucester as a capital of Ocean Nation.
If justice can ever be restored to America's fisheries, let it start here.
And it did! This lead up to it. March 2, 2010 in Gloucester.
In a scathing, 28-page report released last month, U.S. Department of Commerce IG Todd Zinser cited multiple instances of misconduct by Dale Jones, law enforcement director for the past decade of the NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. And other attention has focused on the heavy-handed tactics of Andrew Cohen, agent in charge of the Gloucester regional office; and Charles Juliand, head of the NMFS regional Office of General Counsel.
So far, none of them has been reprimanded, disciplined, suspended or fired. And the calls for firing are not partisan.
These revelations of law enforcement abuse, the revelations of an Asset Forfeiture Fund of $100 million generated over a five year period, with almost half squandered on cars, boats, exotic travel, along with some very questionable travel expenditures of agents brought forth from Zinnsers investigation, bore the first Swartwood report, which compelled the former Commerce Secretary Charles Locke to issue a cabinet level apology and reparations to victims of such out of control behavior, and extortion of fisherman's fines.
May 17, 2011 - U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced today that $649,527 in fisheries enforcement penalties will be returned to 11 individuals or businesses after an independent review of their cases concluded the NOAA enforcement program had in some instances “overstepped the bounds of propriety and fairness.” In his decision memoissued today, Secretary Locke acted on 30 cases reviewed by the Special Master, Judge Charles Swartwood III, accepting all of his recommendations that the law allows and taking additional actions in several cases. Secretary Locke appointed Judge Swartwood to conduct the independent review of cases identified by the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General as problematic. The individuals and businesses will receive their remittances within 30 days of receipt of payment information.
There is another article to be written on the after effects of the apology moment. Another time.
Special Master Swartwoods second report with 60 other reviewed cases has been sitting on a desk, somewhere on a desk at Commerce. It has been sitting there since mid May.
What are they afraid of?
The findings, by Special Master Charles B. Swartwood III regarding NOAA’s fishing enforcement tactics, were completed in early May. They are said to be detailed, numerous and explosive. But that report remains hidden from the public. Both John Bryson, who resigned after his now-infamous June hit-and-run escapades in southern California, and acting Secretary Rebecca Blank have ignored multiple calls to make the latest report public. And so NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco, whose shown nothing but contempt for Congress and any other oversight since 2009, when she took the reins of an agency that is even more dysfunctional now than it ever was then.
There is only one description that fits this continuing scandal. Obstruction of Justice.