Forest Service Chief Tidwell responded this week to the agency’s “morale focus groups,” which convened in response to the Forest Service’s basement-dwelling rankings as a good federal agency workplace. In the survey, employees ranked Forest Service leadership 217th out of 223 federal agencies. Tidwell’s response? He appointed a new director for the Office of Communications “tasked to work on the effectiveness of our internal communication,” among other actions that also include a “major commitment to improving safety.” Tidwell thinks the troops have low morale because they just aren’t getting his messages and working unsafely to boot.
The good news this week is that Associate Chief Hank Kashdan is retiring. Kashdan played a key role in centralizing the Forest Service personnel functions in a new Albuquerque Service (sic) Center. This supposed cost-savings measure, for which there is no evidence of saved dollars, fouled-up hiring, payroll, travel, and other day-to-day chores that should be seamless in any well-run organization. Kashdan’s departure is a welcome start, but the exodus shouldn’t stop with him. That low-leadership ranking was also well-earned by Chief Financial Officer Donna Carmical who retaliated against Forest Service auditor Jeffrey Park after he blew the whistle on former CFO Jesse King’s travel embezzlement scheme. Former Chief Gail Kimbell earned the first-ever directed reassignment for a Chief when she recommended King for a performance raise even while he was being investigated for his malfeasance.
The housecleaning should also sweep up Chief of Staff Tim DeCoster who “reviewed and approved” Jesse King’s fraudulent travel vouchers. In addition to looking the other way as King fleeced the government, DeCoster’s position as Chief of Staff makes him the top day-to-day agency manager; a position he has held throughout the Forest Service’s steep descent to the bottom of the government’s morale rankings.
This better-off-without list wouldn’t be complete without the head guy himself, Tom Tidwell. Tidwell’s biggest failing is that he hasn’t done the housecleaning at the top that is needed to restore leadership as meaning something other than perks for the top dogs. Tidwell’s resignation would be the biggest boost to agency morale he has to offer.