PRNSA fires bookstore manager amid multiple investigations

09/21/2017

The Point Reyes National Seashore Association fired its bookstore manager this month, amid an internal investigation and two conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Devin Currens, who has been on paid leave since late June, had been employed for roughly two and a half years before filing a workplace safety complaint with OSHA concerning an incident in which he handled dead rodents. He said  PRNSA’s executive director was “standing there watching” him at the time, though a law firm hired by the nonprofit says the claim is “utterly false and without merit.” Mr. Currens said that after the incident, he suffered severe respiratory problems, flu-like symptoms and muscle spasms. He has also filed a whistleblower complaint over alleged retaliation after voicing his concerns. OSHA representatives said both cases are still open. In the notice of termination sent to Mr. Currens, executive director Samaria Jaffe identified a number of violations, including failing to follow instructions, insubordination, “aggressive” and “hostile” behavior on numerous occasions and causing other employees to feel uncomfortable and even “unsafe.” The letter cites numerous other issues with his performance that she said PRNSA identified after putting him on administrative leave, including unreturned phone calls and emails, delays in bank deposits and lost keys. In addition, she wrote: “We attempted to meet with you on several occasions to discuss our concerns and work out some of the issues identified, however, you have been evasive and uncooperative in trying to resolve the issues identified.” According to Mr. Currens, without an attorney of his own present, he was uncomfortable meeting with the organization’s third-party investigator. Suggesting potential litigation, the San Francisco-based law firm Jackson Lewis issued in July a cease and desist letter to Mr. Currens on behalf of PRNSA over what it called defamatory statements made on Facebook. In a recent conversation, Mr. Currens said, “I’m not asking for anyone to agree with me, or to take my side. I’m asking for an unbiased investigation conducted by the park service into what has happened.” That call echoes one voiced by former board members who wrote a letter to the editor in this newspaper last month requesting the National Park Service, which receives funding through PRNSA, take action. The authors stated that the majority of PRNSA’s senior staff resigned in 2015 after the arrival of Ms. Jaffe and “amid charges of a newly toxic work environment of threats and harassment.” A handful of board members asked for an investigation at that time as well, though none took place. Evoking recent history, at least three employees have resigned from the organization since Mr. Currens was put on leave, according to Mr. Currens and one other anonymous source. PRNSA declined to confirm this, however, or to comment on the firing of Mr. Currens.