‘Despicable’: Park Service chief dragged before House panel, ripped over closures

Published October 16, 2013


Oct. 16, 2013: National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis waits to testify before a joint hearing in Washington.AP

The head of the National Park Service was pilloried at a tense House hearing Wednesday over the agency’s allegedly “arbitrary” decisions during the partial shutdown which Republicans charge were made to inflict maximum inconvenience on the public.

“The policies have been arbitrary, inconsistent, and ever-changing,” Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said.

He alleged the National Park Service is trying to make the partial shutdown “as painful and as visible as possible.”

GOP lawmakers sharply questioned a string of recent NPS moves, as Director Jonathan Jarvis claimed his agency was trying to comply with the law and make do with limited resources. They questioned why the park service tried to shutter some private businesses on federal land, closed off open-air memorials in D.C. to most public viewing, and even blocked off parking lots.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said “punitive measures were taken at no savings to the American people.”

Reacting to a reported internal claim that the park service directed workers to make the cuts as difficult as possible, Issa said, if true, “it is indeed disgusting and despicable that the Park Service would do this.”

Jarvis later called that claim “hearsay.”

Jarvis was compelled with a subpoena to testify on Wednesday. He said he was willing to appear, but wanted to wait until his staff returned from furlough.

In a series of feisty exchanges, Jarvis defended his agency’s actions.