Samaria Jaffe departs PRNSA

07/25/2018

The executive director of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, Samaria Jaffe, who has been at the center of public criticism expressed by the association’s board members and staff in the past year, is leaving in August after six years at the post. Ms. Jaffe has a new position based in San Francisco as the vice president of development for the western chapter of the National Audubon Society.

PRNSA made an internal hire to replace Ms. Jaffe, promoting the associate director, Donna Faure, an Inverness resident who has been with the organization since 2010.

“[Donna] offers a calm, firm, and fair voice in what can be a rapidly changing environment,” the board chair, Maureen Kennedy, wrote in a recent announcement of the transition. “The board has the utmost respect for her, and confidence in her ability to take PRNSA through the coming decade and beyond. Please welcome Donna as she takes over the reins from Samaria, who in turn has accomplished so much at PRNSA.”

The nonprofit is a cooperating association of the National Park Service and works in partnership with the seashore to improve park trails and open space, restore native habitats and acquire new parcels of land. It also runs year-round environmental education programs for both children and adults. 

Criticism sparked last summer when the then-bookstore manager accused his employer of abuses, calling out Ms. Jaffe for neglect in particular. Devin Currens, who was on administrative leave due to health problems he attributed to an incident in which he handled dead rodents, was ultimately fired last fall over accusations of insubordination and restrained from key employees by a court order. Among other complaints to state and federal agencies, Mr. Currens filed workplace safety and whistleblower complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA ultimately fined PRNSA for two “serious” violations, though agency spokesman Leo Kay this week reported that the case was settled informally and the association was relieved from the penalties. The response from management around the debacle has been limited. “PRNSA is managing a sensitive personnel issue and is working closely with the National Park Service,” explained Ms. Jaffe and former board chair Mike Deverall in a letter to the editor in this newspaper last summer. 

Mr. Currens's story sparked an internal investigation at the organization conducted by a third-party investigator—and concern from two former board members. In a letter to the editor last August, they stated that the majority of PRNSA’s senior staff resigned in 2015 after Ms. Jaffe's arrival and “amid charges of a newly toxic work environment of threats and harassment.” They requested that the National Park Service investigate—a call first made by the senior staff who left in 2015 and which has not been answered to date. 

Ms. Faure declined to address this troubled past. Instead, she commented on the future. “I’m so honored to be chosen to serve as PRNSA’s next executive director and am buoyed by the flood of congratulations from our community,” she wrote in an email. “I look forward to working with this incredible team in the fall as we begin a new strategic planning process to chart our next steps.”