Image: Ex-Hurricane Center chief Bill Proenza
Wilfredo Lee  /  AP
A Department of Commerce team said in a report that ousted director of the National Hurricane Center Bill Proenza, pictured, “failed to demonstrate leadership” and should not be allowed to return to his job.
updated 8/2/2007 6:30:41 PM ET 2007-08-02T22:30:41

The ousted director of the National Hurricane Center wants to return to his job and told superiors in a letter that they illegally retaliated for his criticism of an aging weather satellite.

The 11-page letter sent by lawyers for Bill Proenza said his removal violated the Whistleblower Protection Act. In addition, the letter said, hurricane center employees were “intimidated by NOAA management officials into speaking adversely about Mr. Proenza.”

Proenza’s lawyer, Cathy Harris, said Thursday she had not heard from officials of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in response to the Wednesday letter.

Proenza was placed on leave July 7, just days after almost half his staff signed a statement urging his dismissal. They said he undermined the public’s confidence in them by exaggerating forecasting problems they would face if an aging weather satellite failed.

A Department of Commerce team was brought in to investigate and said in a report that Proenza “failed to demonstrate leadership” and should not be allowed to return to his job.

Officials of NOAA are reviewing the investigation and have not announced their final decision on Proenza’s job status. A NOAA spokesman, Scott Smullen, did not immediately return a call Thursday.

Proenza, meanwhile, has not decided whether to pursue legal action, Harris said.

He assumed the job in January after a 40-year government weather service career, taking over from longtime Director Max Mayfield.

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