ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The U.S. Forest Service (search) has suspended an agency official who complained that some of its managers ignored environmental laws and rules for the spraying of pesticides and weed-killers on forests.
Doug Parker, assistant director of forestry and forest health for the agency's Southwestern Region, is accused of failing to follow a direct order to train and certify employees each month in the use of the chemicals.
Parker, the region's pesticide coordinator, also is accused of failing to submit a progress report on the training.
Deputy Regional Forester Lucia Turner sent Parker a letter Thursday about the 10-day suspension and said further "misconduct" could get him fired. Parker's attorney, Dennis Montoya, gave a copy of the letter to The Associated Press.
Parker and Montoya claim the suspension amounts to reprisal for Parker speaking up about possible violations of law. His earlier whistleblower complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (search) cited a "systemic problem" when it comes to proper pesticide use in the Southwestern Region.
Parker claims officials have taken shortcuts when trying to complete projects, such as not preparing environmental risk assessments and failing to get approval from the proper agency officials.
Montoya said Parker has been subjected to harassment, threats of disciplinary action, removal of duties and impossible demands from his supervisor after raising the concerns.
Parker, under an order from his supervisor not to speak publicly about the matter, declined to talk with the AP.
Forest Service spokesman Carl Holguin said Friday it's agency policy not to comment on pending EEO investigations or personnel matters.
Holguin added that the Forest Service strives to follow the National Environmental Policy Act (search) and other policies regulating pesticides. "We feel confident they're meeting all the requirements," he said.