NPS Staff Use of Personal Email Accounts

On January 10 and January 31, 2017, the National Park Service (NPS) released 177 pages of emails from two former Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) senior officials and a management assistant who it appears used their personal email accounts to hide NPS efforts to influence the outcome of the dog management planning process.  The emails were released in response to the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Bay Area dog and recreation groups.  Spanning from 2011 to 2016, the emails show GGNRA's extensive behind-the-scenes coordination with a handful of external groups that acted as surrogates to push the Park Service’s anti-dog walking agenda.

On January 10, 2017, the National Park Service issued a public statement announcing the suspension of the GGNRA dog rule pending an internal investigation into staff use of personal email for agency business.  Click here to read the Park Service's statement.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier is calling on the National Park Service to rescind the GGNRA Dog Management Plan because of this tainted process and for the Department of Interior Inspector General to conduct a full and public inquiry.   Read the Congresswoman’s full statement here.


FROM THE JANUARY 31, 2017 RELEASE


GGNRA Senior Official and FOIA Officer Asks Parks Conservancy CEO and GGNRA Superintendent to Use Personal Email Accounts

Sept. 2014:  GGNRA senior official and FOIA officer Howard Levitt asks Greg Moore (CEO, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy) for help identifying people who might be willing to write a rebuttal letters defending GGNRA's proposed dog walking restrictions.  Levitt provides suggested talking points for the letters and says to Moore and then GGNRA Superintendent Frank Dean: 

"Greg and Frank:   Please keep responses to this on personal email."

*Note: As GGNRA's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer, Howard Levitt was responsible for tracking, managing, and responding to FOIA requests directed to GGNRA for agency records.


GGNRA Senior Official and FOIA Officer Works with Parks Conservancy to "Keep Distance" from Letter to the Editor Surrogates

Sept. 2014:  GGNRA senior official and FOIA officer Howard Levitt uses personal email to hide communications with Greg Moore (CEO, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy) and Sharon Farrell (then Director of Park Projects, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy) regarding his seeking authors to draft rebuttal letters in support of the Park Service's proposed dog walking restrictions in GGNRA.   After receiving Moore's and Farrell's suggestions, Howard Levitt writes:

"Thanks, Sharon. All of these folks could be good authors of a letter to the editor on Fimrite's article. I have to keep my distance from this, for obvious reasons, so how would you suggest someone reach out to these folks, and who would [do] the reaching?"


GGNRA Works with Partner Groups Behind the Scenes to Combat Critical Oped by GGNRA Co-founder Huey Johnson

May 2014: Using personal email accounts, then GGNRA Superintendent Frank Dean and Director of Communications and Partnerships Howard Levitt work with Greg Moore (CEO, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy) and Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio) behind the scenes to draft letters to the editor responding to GGNRA co-founder Huey Johnson's oped, which is critical of the dog management plan.  


GGNRA's Dog Management Point Person Edits Anti-Dog Walking Group's Letter to House Minority Leader Pelosi 

Dec. 2013:  Using her personal email account, GGNRA dog management point person Shirwin Smith edits a letter from Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio) to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.  The letter disagrees with Leader Pelosi's request for a dog plan comment period extension and argues that GGNRA is a national park - not a recreation area.  Meyer thanks Smith for her edits and writes:

"I just got of the phone with Neal Desai [National Parks Conservation Association]. He feels these letters should be directed to the NPS with copies to Robert Edmonson [Leader Pelosi's staffer]. He feels it's better than seeming to ask Pelosi to take the letter back. It would be up to NPS then to forward them to the Pelosi office in support of whatever action Frank [GGNRA Superintendent Frank Dean] decides to take."


GGNRA Staff Member Provides Useful Oped to Anti-Dog Walking Collaborators

May 2011:  From her personal email account, GGNRA dog management point person Shirwin Smith sends a San Francisco Chronicle oped supportive of dog walking restrictions to Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio), Neil Desai (National Parks Conservation Association), and Becky Evans (Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter).  


GGNRA's Dog Management Point Person and Anti-Dog Walking Group Collaborate Behind the Scenes

April 2011:  Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio) emails GGNRA dog management point person Shirwin Smith's personal email account with some thoughts on how to best comment on the dog management plan.  Smith borrows some of Meyer's points for GGNRA's talking points. 


FROM THE JANUARY 10, 2017 RELEASE


GGNRA Senior Official and FOIA Officer Asks Anti-Dog Walking Collaborators to Only Respond to his Gmail Account

July 2015:  GGNRA senior official and FOIA officer Howard Levitt uses personal email account to pass information to behind-the-scenes collaborators Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio), Neal Desai (National Parks Conservation Association), and Becky Evans (Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter).

"Amy, Neal, and Becky:
Here's something I believe you were interested in seeing. More to come. Respond only to this home email address.
HL"

*Note: As GGNRA's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer, Howard Levitt was responsible for tracking, managing, and responding to FOIA requests directed to GGNRA for agency records.


GGNRA Official Collaborates with External Anti-Dog Walking Group to Help Pad Administrative Record

Feb. 2016: Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio) emails GGNRA senior official and FOIA officer Howard Levitt a pro-restrictions on dog walking letter for the administrative record.  Howard Levitt says:

"This is a great letter. Yes, we have to find a way to get these letters into the record." 


Senior GGNRA Official Aids External Anti-Dog Walking Partners with Advocacy Efforts

Sept. 2015: GGNRA senior official and FOIA officer Howard Levitt uses his personal email account to provide guidance to anti-dog walking collaborators on lobbying GGNRA Superintendent Christine Lehnertz and Leader Nancy Pelosi.  Howard Levitt writes:

"CONFIDENTIAL Dear Amy ( and Neal and Becky, too): Thank you for getting some momentum going on this. Yes, letters addressed to Chris [GGNRA Superintendent Lehnertz] asking her to be firm on protecting park resources and allowing for those who don't want a dog experience would be very useful. Cc to Rep Pelosi would also be good, because she is the one we need to stay away from this issue. Dan Bernal and Robert Edmonson need to be able to report to Nancy that there is a very sizable cohort who do not want Golden Gate to become a dog park.  

Whenever you three feel up to it, I know Chris [GGNRA Superintendent Lehnertz] and I would like to meet to talk about a strategy to activate non-dog advocates to make their voices heard on the Draft Rule."


Senior GGNRA Staff Official Helps External Anti-Dog Walking Groups Prepare Congressional Advocacy Materials

July 2015: Howard Levitt, then Director of Communications and Partnerships at GGNRA, uses his personal email account to help Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio), Neal Desai (National Parks Conservation Association), and Becky Evans (Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter) prepare materials for their meeting with Leader Nancy Pelosi's staff member Dan Bernal.

*Levitt BCCs GGNRA Superintendent Christine Lehnertz's personal email account. 


Senior GGNRA Staff Official Preps Anti-Dog Walking Collaborators for PBS NewsHour Interviews

Sept. 2015: Howard Levitt of the GGNRA uses his personal email account to provide Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio) and Cindy Margulis (Golden Gate Audubon) with guidance for their PBS NewsHour interviews.


Senior GGNRA Official Thanks Anti-Dog Walking Collaborators for their Lobbying Efforts - GGNRA Superintendent BCC'd on her Personal Email Account

July 2015:  GGNRA Senior Official Howard Levitt thanks Becky Evans (Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter), Amy Meyer (People for the Parks/Presidio), and Neil Desai (National Parks Conservation Association) for their lobbying efforts in support of GGNRA's proposed dog walking restrictions.  Email comes after Evans sends Levitt a briefing from their meeting with Leader Pelosi's staff member Dan Bernal.  Levitt keeps GGNRA's Superintendent Christine Lehnertz in the loop by blind copying her personal email account. 

"Dear Becky, Amy, and Neal:

You're marvelous friends - thank you so much! These actions will be hugely important in the next phase, as the draft Rule is completed and released for comment. Let's stay in touch ... Howard"