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Federal Diary

Friends Cry Foul on Hesitation Over Park Service Official's Promotion

By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page B02

Only a few months ago, the National Park Service was celebrating Patricia A. Hooks.

The director of the Park Service, Fran P. Mainella, went to Atlanta in February to announce that Hooks, who had worked as an agency lawyer and manager, was the new head of the Park Service's southeast region.

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"We engaged in a long search for just the right person to take charge of the southeast region," Mainella said in a Park Service news release. "Pat Hooks has proved herself to be an excellent and highly capable executive, and we are pleased to officially recognize her as part of our management team."

Mainella announced the promotion at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The Park Service news release noted that Hooks was the first African American woman to head one of the Park Service's seven regions.

In May, the Park Service issued a "media advisory" that said Hooks would be honored at a reception at Morehouse College in Atlanta. Mainella would be present, the Park Service said. The advisory listed five "possible interview topics" for reporters, including the subject of "opportunities for women and minorities in a profession previously thought to be reserved for males only."

Now, however, it appears that Hooks may no longer be a rising star at the Park Service.

Her supporters fear that her job as regional director is in jeopardy. Longtime Park Service employees portray Hooks as someone who has been treated unfairly.

Shortly after the media advisory was sent out, the Park Service canceled the reception.

More important, Hooks has not been moved into the Senior Executive Service, the pay system for regional and other top park officials, and Mainella decided to reopen the job -- just a few months after she had announced Hooks's appointment.

In recent weeks, the Park Service has re-interviewed applicants for the top Atlanta job, according to an employee who believes that the Park Service has mistreated Hooks. The Park Service plans to announce its decision soon, according to the Hooks supporter, who spoke on condition of not being identified.

Hooks, in a telephone interview, said, "I'm not sure I understand what is going on.

"Some people may think the job is still open, but I firmly believe I was selected for the position and was approved for the position," Hooks said.

She said she has held the job on an acting basis since July 2003 and permanently since February. She said her paperwork for promotion into the SES was completed in mid-May.

David Barna, chief spokesman for the Park Service, said the agency does not comment on personnel issues.

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