The National Weather Service fired a top agency official on Friday, four days after The Washington Post quoted him in a front-page story in which he lamented that budget cuts and the threat of a March 1 sequestration were forcing him to cut services that would threaten public safety.
William Proenza, 68, who led the agency’s Southern region, called his firing a direct retaliation for going public with his plan to shut down radars on sunny days to save power costs.
Weather Service Acting Director Laura Furgione told the Post “there is no connection whatsoever” with the former official’s firing and his comments in the newspaper. In the termination letter, she cited Proenza for transferring $528,000 between accounts last year without authorization.
Proenza described the timing of his termination as “suspicious.”
The former official said he had planned to shut down radars on sunny days to save power and help cover a $100,000 shortfall this spring. He acknowledged in a front-page story Monday that the move could pose a danger to the public if an undetected storm passed through.
“It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to try and save a few dollars if you’re going to degrade our capacity to deliver our mission,” Proenza said, describing his cost-cutting strategy as the Weather Service braces for across-the-board spending cuts throughout the federal government.
On Friday, Furgione flew from Washington to Fort Worth to deliver a notice of termination to him, according to Proenza.
Furgione said the sudden change in leadership would not result in an interruption of service for the southern region, which is one of the busiest for the Weather Service.
“Our forecast and warnings will still be available in the manner folks have expected in the past,” she said.
The Federal Eye will post updates on this story as more details become available.
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