The National Hurricane Center's ousted director "failed to demonstrate leadership" and should not be allowed to return to his job, according to a team that investigated the facility's management after staffers rebelled.
The negative atmosphere and lack of trust between former Director Bill Proenza and his staff had jeopardized the center's ability to function, the five-member group from the Department of Commerce said in its report to Conrad Lautenbacher, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The group's conclusions were completed last week and released Thursday.
Lautenbacher said Jack Kelly, who is responsible for NOAA's day-to-day operations, would provide a response to the team's recommendations within two weeks and detail what steps the agency should take.
Proenza took the post in January and was put on leave July 9, days after almost half his staff signed a statement urging federal officials to dismiss him. Deputy Director Ed Rappaport was named interim chief.
The investigative team said its recommendation was not based on Proenza's public complaints that an aging weather satellite was not being replaced quickly enough and hurricane forecasts would suffer if it failed.
Proenza's critics, including many of his senior forecasters and other staff members, said his complaints about the satellite were exaggerated and undermined public confidence in the center's ability to forecast storms.
At a congressional hearing Thursday about the upheaval, Proenza said he believed the backlash against him stemmed from his QuikScat satellite comments.
"I dared to call attention to it and, by golly, I'm going to pay the price for bringing this to the American people," Proenza said, adding that his superiors were irked by his outspokenness.
The investigative team also said in its report that NOAA needs to improve staff morale and public confidence.