Petition: Justice For Marlene Braun

Release Interior OIG Report on Marlene Braun’s Death

Secretary of the Interior, Kenneth Salazar
Sponsored by:
The Living Trust of Marlene A. Braun and Friends
In this petition, we seek to get full access to the United States Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General’s Report on the suicide of Marlene Braun on May 2, 2005. An interim report came out a year and a half after Marlene Braun killed herself, but the supporting documents and testimony were never released and are being “redacted.” Recently, President Obama opened presidential papers for review. The White House FOIA memo states that government “should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.” In addition, agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public.

Dear Mr. Secretary,

In May, 2005, the monument manager of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, Marlene Braun, committed suicide due allegedly to workplace bullying on the part of her field office supervisor, Ron Huntsinger, now the Bureau of Land Management’s Science Coordinator. An investigation was conducted by the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General, and the 2006 report simply stated there were personality differences and a somewhat bad workplace culture. None of the testimony was released with that report, and the DOI-FOIA administration claims it is still redacting the testimony for release.

The Dept. of Interior has said it must protect the identity of people who testified.

In January, 2009, President Obama opened presidential papers for review. The White House FOIA memo states that government %u201Cshould not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.%u201D In addition, agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public.

We the undersigned respectfully request that the full report with testimony be released to those who have requested it, including the Los Angeles Times and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, as well as The Living Trust of Marlene A, Braun.

Carrizo Plain National Monument has new Draft RMP 5 years too late

This press release is just out from BLM. In February, 2004, then manager of the CPNM had just gotten approval for a draft RMP from the state offices in California. In March, Ron Huntsinger came in to destroy that plan. He wound up destroying it and the monument manager, Marlene Braun, who killed herself on May 2, 2005.

U.S. Department of the Interior

Bureau of Land Management

News Release For Immediate Release: Jan. 21, 2009 CA-CC-09-24

Contact: David Christy (916) 985-4474

BLM Releases Draft Plan for Carrizo Plain National Monument The Bureau of Land Management has released for public review and comment a Draft Resource Management Plan/Draft Environmental Impact Statement for about 206,000 acres of public lands in the Carrizo Plain National Monument administered by the agency’s Bakersfield Field Office.

The draft RMP provides management guidance for public lands in San Luis Obispo and Kern counties. BLM will conduct three meetings in Central California to gather comments on the draft plan and EIS. “The plan contains a range of management alternatives developed in cooperation with our Managing Partners – The Nature Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Game – the Monument Advisory Committee and the public,” said Johna Hurl, monument manager.

The primary issues addressed include: recreation; protection of sensitive natural and cultural resources; livestock grazing; guidance for energy and mineral development; motorized vehicle route designation.

To ensure that they will be considered, BLM must receive written comments on the Draft RMP/EIS by April 23. You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

o Email: o Fax: 661-301-6143

o Mail: CPNM RMP, Bureau of Land Management, 3801 Pegasus Drive, Bakersfield CA

o At a public meeting

Public meetings will be held: * Feb. 24 at the BLM Bakersfield Field Office, 3801 Pegasus Drive. The office is approximately one mile east of Highway 99 off the Porterville/Sequoia exit turn-off on Highway 65. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and finish at 7 p.m. *

Feb. 25 at the San Luis Obispo Library, 1341 Nipomo St. The library is less than one mile east of Highway 101 off the Osos exit. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and finish at 8 p.m. * March 7 at the Carrisa Plains School on Hwy 58. The school is located approximately one mile west of Soda Lake road on Hwy 58. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. and finish at noon.

Individuals who plan to attend and need special assistance such as sign language interpretation or other reasonable accommodations should contact Carrizo RMP Line (661) 391-6034. You may also call that number for additional information on the RMP. Copies of the document have been mailed to requesters. Additionally, printed or compact disc copies can be obtained by contacting the Carrizo RMP line.

The documents are also posted on the Internet at

For further information, call the Carrizo RMP Line (661) 391-6034

Report fails to answer questions on Carrizo Plain manager’s suicide

Report fails to answer questions on suicide
posted 05/04/07

Report fails to answer questions on Carrizo Plain manager’s suicide

David Whitney

WASHINGTON—New information in a heavily redacted investigative report by the Interior Department’s inspector general has only added to the questions surrounding the suicide of the former manager of the Carrizo Plain National Monument.It was May 2, 2005, when Marlene Braun laid down on a makeshift bed outside the Goodwin House, located in the monument, and shot herself.

Since then, investigations into her death have piled facts upon facts. The latest batch was released recently under the Freedom of Information Act.

Its release, just days before the second anniversary of her suicide, did not clear up questions about what went so horribly wrong in Braun’s relationship with her boss, Ron Huntsinger, and why no one stepped in to help. The report was coldly exonerating, but also sadly condemning.

“The Office of Inspector General determined that BLM was compliant with federal law and Department of the Interior personnel regulations,” it said. But in the next sentence, the report said nothing was done to resolve the “longstanding differences” between Braun and Huntsinger, “leading to a breakdown in trust, communication and cooperation.”

Huntsinger, now science coordinator for the agency in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment on the inspector general’s findings. The monument was created by President Clinton just hours before he left office. Its 250,000 acres, roughly equidistant from San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield, are the last remaining expanse of indigenous grasslands in the state.

The monument’s status as conservation lands represented a huge cultural shift for the BLM, for which cattle grazing had been a core purpose. Braun was the first monument manager, full of vigor initially, and ill and wasted from stress and intimidation at the end of her time in the job. At the heart of the differences between Huntsinger and Braun, the report said, was the future of grazing on the monument, with Braun wanting to see it limited.

According to the report, Braun was regarded by other BLM staff as confrontational, controlling, “one-sided and hard to deal with.” As tensions worsened, she was suspended five days for not following orders.

A vacation request was refused. When the stress turned into health problems, she tangled with her superior over medical leave.

By April 27, 2005, the report said the situation was so “out of control” that Braun was contacted about mediation. She never returned the call, which was unusual for her. And on that first Monday in May when she was supposed to drive to Bakersfield for a meeting, she sent instead a two-page e-mail.

“I cannot bear the thought of coming into this office or ever again to meet with (Huntsinger),” she said. “I cannot take any more abuse from him, his lies about my character and my abilities, and any more of the humiliation I have had to endure for the past year.”

Officials in the Bakersfield office sensed something was gravely wrong. But BLM personnel were not dispatched to her home until 35 minutes later, and it was a 75-mile drive from Bakersfield. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department was not called until an hour and 10 minutes after Braun’s e-mail.

Law enforcement and emergency personnel did not reach Braun’s home until two hours after the e-mail was sent.

Braun was found in the front yard, wounded but alive. Her two dogs lay nearby, shot dead. She was flown by helicopter to the Marian Medical Center in Santa Maria, where she was pronounced dead within an hour.

She had prepared for her suicide for several days. Belongings were packed and labeled. A note was left. Computers and materials belonging to the BLM were clearly marked. An eight-page letter was mailed.

“I am weary of working, of moving, and of dealing with conflict over environmental decisions that mean a lot to me,” she wrote in the letter. Kathy Hermes, trustee of Braun’s estate, said the inspector general’s report lifted no curtains on her friend’s death. “It pretty much states what we already knew,” she said.

But that is not the same as saying all questions have been answered, she and others said.

They wanted to know why there isn’t more detail in the report on the bullying and humiliation Braun endured in her job. They also wanted to know why emergency crews weren’t called sooner, or responded faster.

“To me, what they left out is more important than what’s in there,” said Karen Schambach, California director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. She said there are other cases of bullying by superiors that she is watching, including one “remarkably similar” to Braun’s.

“They try to paint her has this difficult employee,” she said. “They could have done a lot more to resolve this, but they didn’t. She was emotionally brutalized.”

Among the ironies is that Huntsinger had served as an alternative dispute resolution management adviser for the BLM’s California region, but according to the report, none of those skills was tapped in his escalating problems with Braun.

In the two years since Braun’s death, the BLM has renewed work on a management plan for the monument. An advisory committee is considering what it should contain, and grazing remains one of the most contentious issues, said Neil Havlik, San Luis Obispo’s natural resources manager who headed the panel when Braun was alive, and is doing so again.

Havlik is among those for whom the inspector general’s report brings no closure.

The signs were there, Havlik said, that Braun was careening toward disaster. She was losing weight to the point of gauntness, and no one intervened.

“I saw things, and in retrospect probably should have spoken up,” he said. “I feel bad I didn’t do anything.”

Report clears BLM office in official’s suicide,0,2697322.story?track=ntothtml

Report clears BLM office in official’s suicide

An investigation is critical of bureau staff but does not fault them in the death of Carrizo Plain National Monument Supt. Marlene Braun.

By Julie Cart
Times Staff Writer

May 5, 2007

Two years after the suicide of the superintendent of Carrizo Plain National Monument, an inspector general’s report has absolved officials in the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Bakersfield office of any blame for her death.

The heavily redacted report, obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, chides Marlene Braun’s supervisor, Ron Huntsinger, for failing to adequately resolve personal and professional conflicts.

The investigation found that the “BLM did not take action to resolve long-standing differences” or to defuse interoffice conflict “despite the availability of alternative dispute resolution methods.”

As a result, the report concludes, “a breakdown in trust, communication and cooperation … adversely affected management of the Carrizo Plains.”

The report also sheds light on the botched emergency response the morning of Braun’s suicide in May 2005, revealing that a medevac helicopter dispatched to the remote ranch was misdirected to a site three miles away. Investigators also found that unnamed officials ordered emergency medical personnel from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to wait for law enforcement before approaching Braun’s residence “because she was known to possess firearms.”

Braun, 46, was still alive when emergency crews reached her, two hours after she sent an e-mail to the Bakersfield office indicating her intentions. Managers in the office dispatched two agency staffers to make the 90-minute drive to check on Braun.

But it was nearly an hour before the BLM alerted the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department to a possible suicide.

Braun killed her two dogs, then herself under a tree in the frontyard of the Goodwin ranch, a lonely section of the 250,000-acre monument.

In her suicide note, as well as a long chronology she prepared of her final year, Braun laid out her fears for the future of Carrizo Plain and told how her life had become “utterly unbearable.” Braun accused Huntsinger, with whom she had clashed for months, of intimidating and bullying her.

The two disagreed about the future of livestock grazing on the monument, with Braun arguing that the practice be phased out in order to preserve native plants and animals. Huntsinger complained that Braun was insubordinate, suspended her once, and was preparing another reprimand at the time of Braun’s death.

Huntsinger left the Bakersfield office not long after Braun’s death and is now the agency’s science coordinator in Washington, D.C. He could not be reached for comment.

Mike Pool, director of the BLM’s California office, said this week, “We have reviewed the inspector general report and respect their views. Although we are unable to comment on the specifics of the report, we can say we have taken steps to strengthen and empower our employees so that they can better resolve conflict in the workplace.”

Although Pool’s office prepared a report on the incident, which was submitted to investigators, that report was not immediately available.

The inspector general’s report was critical of the actions of BLM staffers who removed Braun’s agency-issued desktop and laptop computers without telling law enforcement authorities.

Those BLM employees, whose names were redacted, told investigators that they had permission from sheriff’s deputies to remove the computers, but sheriff’s officials said they did not authorize the removal of anything from the house, according to the report.

To Kathy Hermes, Braun’s childhood friend and her executor, the report failed to resolve many central questions that led up to Braun’s death, especially Huntsinger’s behavior.

“They still lay quite a lot of blame at her door,” said Hermes, a college professor in Connecticut. “They provide no context for why she would be intimidated and afraid, they make it seem like she made it up in her head. I am angry about the way the report twisted the information.”

The investigators apparently did not interview employees of the state Department of Fish and Game or the Nature Conservancy, even though Carrizo Plain is jointly managed by them.


A Civil Servant’s Suicide: Responses to the Outpost 1

Because this has been copied from a cached page, the formatting is messed up. I am trying to fix it. The original Billings Outpost comments are lost, except for this cache file.

Marlene Braun’s suicide
by Kathy Hermes at 2005/08/26 05:49:35 GMT-6

Dear Mr. Wilkinson,

Thank you for your story about Marlene Braun’s death and the BLM. As her executor, of course I care deeply about the story, but my concern is not solely about Marlene, for whom nothing can be done now, but as you point out, for employees continuing to live in an environment where men like her boss, Ron Huntsinger, are not even given paid leave pending investigation. Not to mention the environmental damage that continues. I was shocked at the willingness of managers to pretend this didn’t happen while employees were grieving. Marlene loved being the Monument Manager and cared deeply for her employees, however much she demanded from them (she was a perfectionist, though not a perfect person–who is?). She liked working for the BLM. I was shocked that I had to beg the California state director for letters of condolence to Marlene’s family because her field supervisor, Ron, never wrote any. In my dealings with the BLM, I have met many wonderful people who work for them, biologists and botanists who are dedicated scientists and fine people. But I have been stunned by the lack of care management seems to have in investigating this death seriously. If I killed myself and said in a letter my boss caused me to do it, I think my boss would be put on paid leave while it was checked out. But I work for the state of Connecticut.


Dr. Katherine Hermes

Trustee, The Living Trust of Marlene A. Braun

Associate Professor of History

Central Connecticut State University

1615 Stanley Street

New Britain, CT 06050

(860) 482-3421

did not know Marlene but I love her
by Dorothy Robertson at 2005/08/29 13:16:12 GMT-6
I did not know Marlene while she was alive, I sure wish I did have the chance to meet her. She has done something for this land to draw some attentions to what is going on., She did not cave in and bow down to management and close her mouth or turn her head. Rather it seem like she is screaming out through all of us saying, can anyone hear me? Does anyone care about this land? Gods land! I do care we need to tell anyone who will listen.My heart also goes out to those who loved Marlene, her friends, co-worker’s, and her family.

One other peson said it right in a response…All it takes is one voice, stand up for what you believe in, don’t let anyone intimidate you.

Marlene was the person all of us wish to be, someone who believed in what she did and stood up for it no matter what!

Dorothy Robertson

my sister’s death
by Phyllis Braun at 2005/08/26 16:50:32 GMT-6
Dear Mr. Wilkinson,

I want to thank you for writing this article relating to my sister’s suicide in May.

Sometimes I have numb and it is heartening to hear people I don’t know relating what I felt to be work abuse of my sister. She was not politically savy, that is for sure. Writings I have read from my sister clearly showed me she had no idea what a political freight train was bearing down upon her those last 16 months she was at the Carrizo. She loved it beyond any description and I want to see more investigations, deeper delving and I want to see Ron Huntsinger fired so that he cannot ever do that kind of cruel badgering to another employee. I also want to see the Carrizo protected.

Thank you again for your words.


Phyllis Braun, Taos, NM

For whatever reason, Huntsinger should be punished
by A man in Butte of Montana at 2005/08/28 19:33:12 GMT-6
I have read both papers about Marlene Braun by TODD WILKINSON ( and JULIE CART and MARIA LA GANGA (,1,1835059.story?coll=la-headlines-california), I got enraged. Whatever the political backdrop is, Ron Huntsinger is a live person, though probably an idiot, but still is a man, probably a puppet but not a wooden puppet, I strongly support an investigation should be made and a punishment more than just a fire against Huntsinger.
by Sandy at 2006/12/26 21:35:42 US/Mountain
Get the facts. You’re the idiot.
Marlene Braun
by DJ at 2005/08/26 23:32:13 GMT-6
ALL Federal agencies are totally political. But, the BLM was just as hard on it’s honest employees under the Clinton Administration as it is under the Bush Administration. In fact, politics has always been THE MAJOR FORCE behind the BLM, the Park Service, the Forest Service. It is the politicians and those in management who cowtoe to the politicians which creates the hazards of being a lands management “public servant”. Ranchers and Energy Companies have always been put ahead of wildlife and natural resources when it comes to the government. Sad, but true. AND I personally know the BLM management will go to any extremes to protect itself … at the sacrifice of its employees!!!
DOI & BLM Management
by Anonymous at 2005/08/27 11:23:30 GMT-6
Having been a long time employee of the BLM, I must say that regardless of the past Clinton Administration and the now Bush Administration; management in any federal agency protects their own and the employees are left to fend for themselves. There is no support whatsoever from management, except for the support from loved ones and other employees. The saying is true, “promote the bad land manager and move him elsewhere.” It is sad that it took a life of someone to make management listen. Do I think they are listening now? No…and why is that, because I think management is too busy trying to cover up and protect eachother!I am listening and I am not afraid!

My heart goes out to those who loved Marlene, her dear friends, her co-worker’s, and her family.

All it takes is one voice, stand up for what you believe in, don’t let anyone intimidate you, no one and I mean no one should have to put up with any hostile harassment work environment or discrimination of any kind, don’t be a victim, get mad and do something about it!

Marlene Braun’s suicide
by Anonymous at 2005/08/27 17:34:40 GMT-6
As a past BLM employee I know what it is like on the inside of the BLM. Having worked in the Ridgecrest CA BLM office I could not believe what went on. The field manager was a minority and the BLM would do anything to protect him. Others in the office did everything they could to cause problems and the state management team did nothing. After it came out that there might have been paybacks from a contractor to the management in the office they still did nothing. I watched good people leave everyday because they had enough. I watched others take sick leave every week to try and make it to another week in the BLM. I know that no one in the government will do anything about what is going on because that is the way it is.
by shawna at 2006/05/09 03:46:34 GMT-6
I have never met Marlene, though I heard her name mentioned with love when I worked at the Alaska Fire Service last season. I just wanted to write about the incredibly inhumane behaviour I have witnessed within the BLM in Alaska.Last year I accepted temporary job with them with high expectations and with great delight, as a person who has enormous love for the land and the Native people, I really belieaved that finally, after years of menial labour which did not adequately support me, I had found my niche. I utterly believed in the mission of Wildland Firefighting and felt so honoured to be part of the group! I am half Metis ( native) and also have some Fetal Alcohol disorder symptoms; but despite this, I have soldiered on through life and I type nearly 100 words per minute, am highly skilled in most computer applications, and am a successfuly published writer and public relations freelancer. I have strong background in clerical and I worked as a dispatcher for the Forest Service some years ago . I hoped my supervisors at the BLm would appreciate what I had to bring to the table, my maturity as a woman at midlife, and years of experience in the North! Instead, my direct supervisor, a woman who drank her lunch ( and I dont mean water), took three hour “lunches” at home on a regular basis, spend most of her time in various male supervisors’ offices, and refused to train me, spent all of last season riding and ridiculing me. She would bring me her extremely obese welfare sister’s fithy large clothing and offer it to me to supplement my wardrobe; she physically pulled me away from a conversation with smokejumpers and pulled me down the hall , saying it wasn’t part of my job to socialize; she ridiculed me on a regular basis for not owning a vehicle and said she couldn’t rehire me if I couldn’t come up with a vehicle; ( although i lived in the barracks, right across the street from work); she would often suggest that I try working in fast food; and so on. At the end of the season, I conceived, wrote and completed a fifty-plus SOP for Timekeepers new to the Fire Operations office, complete with computer generated graphics; but she took credit for it, put her name on it, and refused to credit it, although I had done all the work on my own time after hours, without pay. THIS season, she and two close colleagues in human resources utilized a new edict re: enhanced security paperwork to first drastically shift my start date, (which precluded me from taking part in courses which would have enhanced my skills and allowed me access to career advancement), and then to actually RESCIND my job offer. They claimed they had to rescind the job offer because the paperwork was not yet in- although it was not due until May 31. ( Today as I write, it is still only May 8.) Although I of course appealed to the men in charge, they all seem to be hamstrung ( that is the politically correct euphamism for the actual state of affairs) by her and women of her ilk. I am now really stuck in Fairbanks without employment or housing….I imagine I must now resort to working in fast food, and hope to heck I can save a couple of hundred dollars to escape south to washington, where I came up from.As an addendum, please note I personally know several Native women who have been similarly banned from working/prevented from advancement/harassed within the Alaska Fire Service and Alaskan BLM. Thank you for the opportunity to join in this conversation….sincerely, “Shawna Dease”, a wounded “coyote” still licking her wounds after a serious thumping at the hands of the BLM.
by deborah at 2005/08/27 22:24:11 GMT-6
Having dealt with the BLM for many years watching them slowly destroy America’s wild horses, I can appreciate her frustration.
Marlene Braun
by Sue Steinacher at 2005/08/28 16:16:32 GMT-6
Marlene was a dear friend and a co-worker when we were both with BLM in Fairbanks, Alaska. She was an extraordinarily intellegent, passionate and generous woman. She was also uncompromising in her role as a steward of the land; a very difficult position to maintain in an agency as politically driven as BLM with its multiple-use mandate.

This has never been more true than under this current administration, where sound, longstanding, bipartisan environmental protections are under assault. The American people will learn much too late how much they have been manipulated and lied to without watchdogs and bulldogs like Marlene. How tragic that it takes her death to shine even the smallest light on how America is robbing its own future for the benefit of a powerful few.

I now work for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game in western and northern Alaska. Our highly development-minded state adminstration is in step with BLM and the fedreral adminstration as they march westward across the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), overturning compromises reached through an extensive public-comment process in 1998, and removing protections of critical areas first established under James Watt during the Reagan administration.

Our wildlife biologists are being silenced with threats of funding cuts to entire wildlife management programs if they dare suggest that development plans need to take into account the needs of wildlife. And so the public remains uninformed; always understanding too little too late.

We in the North witness the negative consequences of global warming firsthand, and yet our leaders further imperil our wildlife and the habitat they depend on in the never-ending search for energy sources that fuel the global warming process. The furute will surely look back on our legacy of selfishness and shortsightedness with amazement and dismay.

It breaks my heart that Marlene made the choice she did, but knowing her it doesn’t entirely surpise me to realize just how much she cared about something much bigger than her life. She was an extraordinary woman in life, and she is an extraordinary woman in death.

She is missed and mourned by more people that she could have imagined.

Sue Steinacher, Nome, Alaska

Marlene Braun
by M. Meiners at 2005/08/30 14:59:57 GMT-6
Without my cousins friendship with Marlene, I would never have heard of the Carrizo Plain and the fight for the native species. Thank goodness there are people fighting to keep every inch of this great country from being commercialized. It seems if this educated woman was willing to give her life for this cause, and felt the management of the organization was not living up to its mission, a thorough investigation into policy and management should be conducted. Every cause worth fighting for has had martyrs who try to wake up the uninformed. Let’s hope Marlene has accomplished this.
Marlene Braun
by Dan Rathbun at 2005/08/30 21:47:16 GMT-6
I did not know Marlene, but I do know Ron Huntsinger and the BLM. This comes from 38 years of service with BLM in CO, NM, NV and two tours in the Washington Office (one in the cubicle next to Ron). I have spent enough time to know Ron will humm along with the loudest melody he hears and even try to learnt to sing the lyrics if it will advance his career. He always walks with the wind at his back and salutes the flag on the tallest pole. He is the poster child for telling the boss what he/she wants to hear. Ethics, professional integrity, and moral courage are unknown values in his fabric. To Ron, “CFR” (Code of Federal Regulations) stands for Code of Federal Recommendations; if it is tough or will piss off someone that has dominion over his career you need not follow the CFR. Balanced management means putting the production oriented values on one side of the scale and the protection oriented on the other and shift the pivot point until you get promoted or can transfed out.

I recommended Ron for his selection as the Tonopah Area Manager. You canonly begin to imagine my horro as I watched him go native and curry the favor of those political influences that he believed would help him. Ron eroded and unravelled the very good and difficult work his predecessors in accomplished Tonopah. The positive trends and results they achieved in setting proper numbers and season of use for domestic livestock, appropriate management levels for wild horses and protection of critical wildlife habitat were effectively reversed by Ron during his short tenure in central Nevada. I regret my assitance in getting him his assignment there.

I truly wish I could have known Marlene. I wish I could have offered her examples of hope and help provide her the strength to resist the Ron’s of the BLM. I wish I could have introduced her to others who have suffered and are suffering her identical situation It is people with her spirit and skill that will develope and implement the policies, plans, practices that protect and sustain America’s natural resources. Achieving balanced use of the public resources and sustaining their productivity is one of the most important jobs in public service. Unfortunatley, the job is currently being overseen by people like Ron. Decisions that run contrary to good science and inappropriately favor one perspective over another will ultimately demnish the productivity of the land and destroy the natural values that make life not only pleasant, but make it possible.

Fortunatley for Marlene’s memory there are three branches of government; one to pass the laws, one to carry out (execute) the laws and a third branch which interprets the laws, reverses the actions of those who only pretend to execution of the laws and punishes those violate the laws.

lost hope
by Steve Everett at 2005/09/05 21:31:47 GMT-6
Because of Ron’s ruthless actions, Marlene finally lost hope. This website lists the 10 common elements of suicide. Many of the elements describe Marlene’s unbearable circumstances- an answer to an otherwise insoluble problem or a way out of some unbearable dilemma; people with high standards and expectations are especially vulnerable to ideas of suicide when progress toward these goals is suddenly frustrated; the suicidal person is convinced that absolutely nothing can be done to improve his or her situation; no one else can help; and lastly, suicide provides a definitive way to escape from intolerable circumstances. The system failed her-this should never have happened Why was Ron Huntsinger allowed to do this and why is he still employed? We demand some answers!
Marlenes Battle
by Rick Ebers at 2005/09/06 18:28:49 GMT-6
Thanks to Julie Cart of the LA Times and Todd Wilkinson of the Billings Outpost for the excellent journalism and for sharing a very sad situation. It certainly is disgusting that someone so talented – who tries to see all points of view, seeks consensus, and has such a love for life and the environment was pushed to a point so frustrating that she felt there was only one way out. And it is especially difficult to believe that anyone would behave like her supervisor in this day and age and then get away with it! With all the director’s memos and training classes that are given/implemented to condemn and prohibit workplace harassment and violence, it seems especially incongruous that this type of behavior is tolerated.

This monument (as a worksite) is very isolated, and since the many of the confrontations were without witnesses, it would place more frustration and stress on Marlene. The LA times article said she flooded Ron with communication and in civilized conditions that should be encouraged. The stronger are not supposed to intimidate – whether by physical force or force of position. Isn’t everyone supposed to use logic and have the freedom to defend or further their ideas? I know that politics is a large part of furthering one’s ideas – and politics includes social interaction (to the extent of schmoozing or using the lever of powerful, influential connections). But all the elements I just mentioned can be used through civil discussion without physical and psychological harassment and/or intimidation to drive someone out. The BLM sacrificed an excellent dedicated employee. Marlene fought the battle but lost the war.

by Susan at 2005/09/06 20:46:09 GMT-6
We’ve heard a lot about Marlene’s performance as the consummate professional and its all true, but I’d like to also point out that she was one of the most honest, kind-hearted, truest friends anyone could ever have. This is why Marlene had many, many friends all across the nation who considered her their best friend, including me. I, like her other friends, spent many days over the past year talking with her as she described her unbelievable situation, listening to her cry, listening to her frustrations and confusion about what to do next, and wondering who she could trust. Her friends struggled to give the best advise they could to help her and counted on Marlene’s strong nature to pull through; but none of her friends were aware of the fact that she had been served with two more reprimands near the end. Her back was finally broken. She had reached the point of hopelessness and saw no way out. She was not going to, in her eyes, burden her friends with her troubles any more. She was going to take control of the situation. Had they known, any one of her dear friends would have driven day and night to drag her out of there and offer their homes to her for as long as she needed. We all blame ourselves for not calling that week, for not being there when she really needed us. As the good person she was, the day before her suicide, Marlene baked a cake for her associate manager’s mother who was stricken with cancer and offered to take her to her cancer treatment. She called her favorite Uncle Earl to see if he needed anything and told him she loved him for the first time……and the last time. We miss her greatly.
The Rest of the Story
by Friends of Marlene at 2005/09/07 18:05:04 GMT-6
As a supervisory government employee, Ron Huntsinger’s primary responsibility was to his employee’s safety and welfare. This should be common sense, but in addition, there are numerous required trainings that would have emphasized this to Ron; apparently Ron lacks sensitivity and/or was sleeping during the trainings…or maybe he was so intent on his mission to get her fired or force her to quit that he put that above concerns for her welfare. It appears that once Ron recognized Marlene’s strong will and his inability to control her, his goal was to work with the human resources dept and management to make a case for her dismissal.

The downfall of Marlene started in September 2004, when Ron threatened her with a letter of reprimand. Her crime was that she had sent out an email correcting a factual mistake spoken by Ron (apparently its preferred to have incorrect info out there than to correct your supervisor). It is distressing that this minor infraction was so overblown, however, it can now be seen as a red flag that something more than trying to merely discipline an “insubordinate employee” was under way. After several weeks of anguishing over a possible reprimand, Marlene said she asked Ron when she would receive it and he replied “I’ll give it to you when I’m damn well ready to. You brought this on yourself.” In an attempt to rectify the situation, Marlene requested a mediation meeting with Ron and it was scheduled for October 5th, 2004. Marlene’s hope of solving it through mediation though were dashed when Ron strategically served her with the reprimand (notice of suspension without pay) that, because of some kind of government policy, immediately cancelled the mediation process to Ron’s advantage (he didn’t want to resolve it; he wanted her fired). Marlene and her colleagues were in disbelief at the action and encouraged her to fight it; It was almost laughable that this could be happening to someone of Marlene’s caliber. Everyone who knew her was confident that upper management would never in a million years support it and must have somehow been misled; however, this turned out to be a wrong assumption. Over the next few months, Ron continued his attacks and stripped her of her manager duties, denied her of a much needed vacation and made taking sick leave difficult.

As a direct result of the anxiety created by this situation, many employees and friends watched as Marlene went from a healthy vibrant employee to a depressed walking skeleton. Her colleagues encouraged her to go to the doctor to seek treatment for depression to help her through this tough time (prior to Ron’s arrival, she was not on any medication to treat anxiety or depression). Employees directly expressed their concerns to Ron about her extreme weight loss and the toll the stress was taking on her mentally. Even Marlene talked to Ron about the stress this was causing and her deteriorating health conditions. At her weakest point, Ron decided to serve the final blow by giving her additional reprimands a week before she took her life.

Marlene, as a fighter for what she believes in, and did all the right things by attempting to schedule mediation, hiring an attorney, contacting assistance programs, defending herself to upper management (she even proposed to “write an apology to Ron Huntsinger and apologize to him in person as well”) and responding with a grievance to their decision. During each step Marlene threw every ounce of energy she had into fighting it, but grew increasing weary and frustrated as it took a toll on her health. When her grievance was denied, she was too weary to appeal the decision and knew they were hell-bent of getting rid of her. They did. It will be interesting to see what puppet they choose to fill in behind her.

Corruption in BLM California
by JD in Sacramento at 2005/09/11 22:29:13 GMT-6
It seems that the majority of the BLM Field Offices in California have problems and BLM State Management is trying to keep things “hush hush” and sweep the issues under the dirt so to speak.

FIRST, there was Marlene Braun and the issues with Ron Huntsinger the Bakersfield Field Manager. He should have gotten fired, but NO, he had a MISSION and the SUPPORT of the overall BLM State Management.

SECOND, Robert Beehler, Hollister Field Manager who admitted using government funds for his own personal use and God knows what else, did he get fired, NO, but he was given the Golden handshake by the BLM State Management and retired not so long ago. Thank God the proper authorities heard about it and got involved and took the dirt from under the carpet and back into the dustpan for proper disposal.

THIRD, There are rumors of misappropiation of govt funds as well as other issues up in the Redding Field Office. I wonder if those issues will be swept under the carpet as well, since it seems like that’s the way past issues have been dealt with in Califoria within the Bureau.


by at 2005/09/12 20:08:45 GMT-6
This certainly summarizes the continous abuse that I was aware of as a fellow employee. Ron is incompetent as a manager and a compassionate human being and should be fired.
marlene braun
by nick at 2005/09/07 22:03:38 GMT-6
Obviously Marlene was very unstable. Died over dirt !
What is worth dying for?
by Gerry at 2005/09/08 13:06:14 GMT-6
I think she died over the same thing Socrates did: the right to question. Freedom to question, to advocate, to speak about issues of controversy, especially when one works for the government of the United States, seems like it ought to be a simple matter in the land of the free, assuming we still are. I would die for my land, which somepeople might think of as just dirt. But they would be wrong. Land is precious. She was not unstable. She was a veteran and acted with dignity!
by Mike at 2005/09/08 13:14:22 GMT-6
Ron Huntsinger treated her like dirt. He should be fired.
cows vs nature
by jack prier at 2005/09/09 21:20:02 GMT-6
i knew Marlene very well and what utterly galled her was the too-often finding that power always trumps facts. From the top down in the bush administration the directives were to increase any/all resource extraction, mainly to benefit bush’s constuency, in this case the “independent” ranchers who in effect are heavily paid (through obscene subsidy) to destroy most of the arid west’s public lands ecosystem with clumsy dumb eurasian riverine animals (cattle). Yeah, sure, they get to swagger a little and wear pointy boots and silly powerhats but we get to know that all OUR lands are overseen by government agencies which are directed not to care. The science and studies are mostly window-dressing and crepe for the policies that will mostly find for the cause of resource extraction—Marlene couldn’t really stomach how brutally true, how in-your-face this becomes in real life. She used her curiousity and brains and energy to learn, to find out, to know, about all nature as she loved it–but facts often have little to do with decision-making “on the ground”.
by Streamnut at 2005/09/10 08:22:06 GMT-6
Marlene was a good person, in a bad situation. I know. Been there too, as the BLM’s Lead Wildlife Biologist in Barstow, California. Many of us career folks who thought in the latter days of the Clinton-Gore administration that things were turning around for the better in terms of public land managers finally addressing the national crisis in off-road vehicle management on our public lands, requiring vehicle route designation and rangeland reform, as well as requiring forward planning for true biodiveristy protection and global warming implications were shocked with the reversal of all environmental progress with the advent of the Bush administration. Vice President Gore’s Hammer Program requiring increased government efficiency and accountability was replaced with a fraudulent program of how to ensure all subsidized uses continue with lessened restrictions under the guise of “collaboration” and “voluntary conservation”. Even where discovered truths, sound science, established law and public opinion speak otherwise.
by jack prier at 2005/09/10 21:45:41 GMT-6
streamnut is right-on—been involved with many years of “collaboration” where the wise-users grind down resistance ’cause facts have nada to do with what they want–in fact, i met Marlene on one of these collaborative ranch tours—-collaboration is where they shaved heads and poured tar on ’em for going along with the nazis in France, remember.
by Streamnut at 2005/09/10 08:22:06 GMT-6
Marlene was a good person, in a bad situation. I know. Been there too, as the BLM’s Lead Wildlife Biologist in Barstow, California. Many of us career folks who thought in the latter days of the Clinton-Gore administration that things were turning around for the better in terms of public land managers finally addressing the national crisis in off-road vehicle management on our public lands, requiring vehicle route designation and rangeland reform, as well as requiring forward planning for true biodiveristy protection and global warming implications were shocked with the reversal of all environmental progress with the advent of the Bush administration. Vice President Gore’s Hammer Program requiring increased government efficiency and accountability was replaced with a fraudulent program of how to ensure all subsidized uses continue with lessened restrictions under the guise of “collaboration” and “voluntary conservation”. Even where discovered truths, sound science, established law and public opinion speak otherwise.
right on
by janice at 2005/09/12 21:00:53 GMT-6
thanks for writing this …I’m an email friend of a person who works for the BLM and she has every reason to fear for her safety.This just has to stop!

Kindest Regards and Prayers.

Marlene Braun
by DJ at 2005/09/13 16:14:14 GMT-6
Under normal circumstances, Marlene might have realized she could have quit the BLM and gone to work for a conservation group. It would NOT have been QUITTING. MANY others who have given up on government agencies have quit to work for environmental groups. Sometimes, when one is so involved, so “in the middle” of a very bad situation, they don’t see their recourse. They only know they are “failing” in their attempts to do what is right. I hope and pray others who find themselves in Marlene’s position will stand back and realize IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT!! They can do better under circumstances where their knowledge and dedication will be appreciated. If you can’t get in through the main entry, try another!!! GOOD BLESS THOSE WHO ARE TRULY SINCERE IN THEIR EFFORTS FOR THE GOOD OF ALL !!
Getting Out
by Sally at 2005/09/15 10:29:07 GMT-6
As a government employee with over 13 years myself in I can understand how Marlene didn’t necessarily want to go into the private sector. It isn’t just the pension and other things–being of public service is important. Good workers should not have to choose to leave public service. We are needed here, and our functions are different. I wish she’d found a way out other than suicide and of course anyone in this situation, if it comes to feeling like your only option is death, keep talking to the people who love you and will miss you. They’ll tell you there is another way. But let’s demand that government be responsible about its employees. I work for a state agency, but I am proud of that work.
Marlene Braun’s Death
by Kathy R. at 2005/09/23 11:30:39 GMT-6
Marlene had many friends all across the country – some of us are only now learning of her death and are completely devastated by this tragic loss that happened months ago. I went to graduate school with Marlene back in the late 1980s early 1990s and kept in pretty good contact with her since that time. No one has mentioned that Marlene was an excellent scientist and the research she did on nitrates in the Santa Ana River watershed was invaluable to understanding sources of nitrates in the river and to the state’s regulation of water quality in this region. Marlene’s areas of expertise were numerous and broad, and I have no doubt that these qualities mader her an excellent land manager. She had the most down-to-earth, midwestern friendliness of anyone I’ve ever met, but was also an uncompromising idealist. I still can’t believe that she would take steps with such finality – her struggles with developing a management plan that was appropriate for the monument given the present BLM culture must have seemed to be hopeless to her in life; I hope and pray that through her death her vision for the monument can become a reality. Hers was an unfinished life that had the potential for so much more contribution, and her loss is absolutely tragic for the environmental resource community.

Finally, what else is there to say about Huntsinger? I concur with many of the other contributors – the actions taken against Marlene absolutely must be investigated! He appears to have set out on a personal vendetta against her when he learned about the negative comments she had made about him to the agency partners back in 2004, and systematically set out to get her fired as the result of that perceived personal affront. Whatever his personal feelings, it doesn’t appear that there were any attempts to work “with” Marlene, only “against” her. There must be accountability with her supervisor personally, and also with the state BLM officer who refused her appeal, even though she had letters supporting her position from the other agencies.

by Sandy at 2006/12/26 21:46:36 US/Mountain
Get your facts together before you speak out.
by Brian at 2005/10/09 23:19:02 GMT-6
I had the opportunity of briefly meeting Marlene shortly after she had been appointed to her position at Carrizo. I was with a group doing volunteer work at the monument (removing barbed wire fences which hindered the movement of the newly transplanted antelope).

I was greatly impressed by Marlene. She was intelligent, enthusiastic, , very friendly, and obviously dedicated to her job. She seemed to me to be the ideal person for the job. When I heard the news of her suicide, I was deeply shocked.

I would like to remind everyone that much of the land constituting the monument was paid for and donated by the Nature Conservancy. The land was intended to be conserved for it’s natural values. Conservancy members did not donate funds to that organization to subsidize cattle ranching. Carrizo was intended to be the one last sizeable reminant of the valley environment which exists nowhere else in California. I trust the Nature Conservancy will be enforcing it’s legal authority to protect the land it donated to the people of the United States.

As for Marlene, one thing that I think we must learn from this tragedy is that one reason suicide happens is when people internalize their problems and direct their anxieties inward rather than dealing with the cause of their problems. Let’s all remember this as we fight for Carrizo and America’s environment.

My sympathies to Marlene’s family and friends.

by at 2005/10/28 21:45:47 GMT-6
Just found this webpage while searching for information on Marlene and I just had to share. It is a personal website, but very, very informative and helpful. It was created by a Federal government employee who works for BLM in California.

Discrimination & Hostility in the Federal Workplace

Bullied out of work in Montana
by M at 2005/11/19 14:15:14 US/Mountain
I have just now read all of the comments about Marlene Braun’s suicide and learned of her struggles at work.First of all, I thank you, Todd Wilkinson for writing about her story and getting the word out in Montana. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it until I went into the bullying insitute website. I live in Montana and am having the same struggles as Marlene did in her job.

I hate to say it, but after being terminated from my job by my bully boss, there is not a lot of hope for the targets at this time. I am struggling to get my life in order after my boss terminated me from my job very much in the same way that Marlene’s boss did. It is a daily struggle to keep afloat and I have considered suicide several times since this happened to me. I have fought for someone to listen and have written to every type of “help” site and attorney that I could find. There is no help. People can be somewhat understanding, but the advice is always the same. They tell me to get another job and move on, like it is that easy. I have tried for 10 months to find a job- any job that will pull me out of my living hell, but all I could find was a part time babysitting job. After 25 years of management experience and not even one bad performance evaluation- no one will hire me.

I have tried the EEOC, Human Rights, Department of Labor, NELA, dozens of attorneys, Oprah, Dr. Phil, newspapers, Bully websites…you name it, I’ve called and written. Everyone is quick to refer you to someone else and no one wants to step up themselves. It is a vicious circle that turns you around and around again, but never comes to someone that can actually do something for you.

The Dr. Phil show responded briefly and even went so far as to call my former boss to see if he would participate in a show about bullying at work (humorous!). He responded by having his lawyer threaten me with a letter telling me not to request an audience of the Dr. Phil show. The show has dropped the subject at this time.

I now have one month left before my statute of limitations runs out for filing a wrongful discharge case against my employer. Montana has a law in place, but no one will represent me. I’ve tried hundreds of miles away from where I live to find an attorney. No one will help.

I absolutely understand why Marlene killed herself. Everyday that I apply for another job and the rejection comes once they know that I was fired, or every call to another attorney who won’t give me the time of day, I just lose hope and want the struggle to end. The bills keep coming and the health gets worse.

I went through the same thing as Marlene. The difference is that I was not a federal employee. I was a manager in a job that I loved and would have stayed at forever. My boss was a tyrant and still has his job. He will continue to destroy lives and no one can stop him. Thousands of people flock to the popular Resort that I worked at and have no idea of the horrible and hostile work environment that the employees have to deal with on a daily basis. I’m sure that Todd, the writer of this article has even patronized this place himself and would never think that there was a bully boss in the mix.

I would love to give people insight on a group or attorney that helps people with this problem of bullying at work, but until we can get a law passed that fights for us, there’s not much you can do. Suicide in the end may be the only hope of getting a result. Sad to say, but so very true.

As for myself, I will try for another month to find that one attorney who wants to step up and help fight for the cause. After my times runs out, I don’t know what I will do. I can’t live like this forever and don’t want to. I am sad that Marlene had to die. I am sad that I have wanted to make that same decision. The only thing that has stopped me so far is knowing that my former boss wants nothing more than to have me gone forever. If I killed myself, he’d celebrate. He’d win. I will continue with my fight and hope that I can eventually be heard. Boycott the Resort….fight for a bullying at work law…whatever it takes.

Thanks for the article! Keep reading the bullying institute website. If nothing else, it helps to know that someone out there understands, whether they can help or not.


Reply to M in Montana
by Pat Morris at 2005/11/21 19:21:41 US/Mountain
Please M, there is help for you.

Even though Mr. Kastner was a federal Administrative Judge, I am sure he can provide you with someone who could help you in your situation. He is a very honest and sincere man.

Don’t give up, please don’t give up!

Mitchell Kastner, Esq.


Bullying Bosses
by K at 2005/11/26 08:49:36 US/Mountain
I responded to M (I think it is the same person) on the blog that Oprah has. But I think all of us who have watched the Outpost realize that bullying, or to be more honest about it, abusive and intimidating employers, can ruin lives that only a short time before were happy and productive. What I had perhaps once naively assumed was that the Management above the manager would not want another manager or valuable employee to be fired. I thought this would be true in federal employment, and surely true of commercial enterprises, which have some rational economic reason for wanting a good working atmosphere. Wouldn’t it make sense to fire the bully rather than lose countless employees who love their jobs either b/c they are fired or have to take sick days? Bullies are allowed to continue because everyone, including those above them, is afraid of them on some level. Power is something we yield to people.

But I have not lost faith that some people have courage and a sense of right and wrong.

I hope you are able to get help from the legal system. But most of all, don’t lose hope. And remember, the first amendment still applies to you. If the company is threatening you with lawsuits after you have been fired so that you will shut up, that is also a use of intimidation. The law is not a weapon to be used as a cudgel.

Thanks for your advice
by M at 2005/11/30 21:08:12 US/Mountain
Thanks for your advice, K. Yes, I am the same person who wrote to the blog

I just spent an hour writing a comment, only to delete everything that I wrote. I just can’t do this anymore…

I am spent. I am giving up. I tried my best, but it was not good enough. It would’ve only taken one person to say they could help, but after 200 contacts and trying for over 11 months…I can’t deal with it anymore.

People, like yourself are kind and caring, but cannot help someone in my situation. No one can. I have tried the sites that you sent and have written to everyone who I was referred to. Nothing. All of the contacts just kept referring someone else, and it became a vicious circle.

There are people who care, and I know I am loved, but it is not enough to help my situation as it stands. I am sorry that Marlene had to go through this. I wish I had met her. She and I could’ve helped each other. People who do not go through this just don’t get it. I tried the bullyinginstitute site but it costs money just to get an hour of advice. I can’t afford to pay someone to listen who can’t help me in the long run. I have the books. They made me feel better…until I hit the pavement again in my job search and can’t get even get a job putting inserts into the local newspaper or stocking grocery shelves after hours. No one wants to hire a whistleblower who was fired from a good job. Believe me, I’ve tried everything. I live in a very small town. Everyone knows I was fired. They don’t care why.

Thanks for your comments and advice.


Thanks for your help
by M at 2005/11/30 20:21:44 US/Mountain
Thanks so much for the contact. Mr. Kastner was very quick to respond to my email, but said that he cannot help. I appreciate your effort. He seems to be a good man and I loved reading his articles on the site. He was officially the 200th person that I wrote to about my case and the 200th rejection for help. I think that it’s time to admit that I cannot do anything to hold my “bully” accountable for his actions. I gave it more than 11 months, but the reality is not good. No one likes a whistleblower. I am grateful for the contacts and advice that some people sent, but there does not seem to be anything more I can do. I wish I knew Marlene Braun. I absolutely understand what she went through and know why she ended her struggle. It takes everything out of you, no matter how strong-willed you may be. M
by John S at 2005/12/01 16:42:19 US/Mountain
Wow, this is really distressing to read! There isnt anyone who can help this lady? My friend went to a lawyer about her case with a boss and there was nothing this guy was willing to do. It was as if he took the bosses side which maybe is what lawyers have to look at but still. We need an article just on workplace environment. We also need someplace people can go to get help, real help. i get that places have to charge to keep going, but isn’t there a fund that can help people? I just find this really upsetting!
Help is near
by P.S. Nolen at 2005/12/07 17:16:32 US/Mountain
Try contacting the investigator for the BLM, Mr. Greg Aumann 661-391-6008. He was hired as an independent investigator. He takes his job pretty seriously, and seems to be honest & forthright. Never stop fighting the good fight & never let the evil ones grind you down.
Reply to P.S. Nolen
by at 2005/12/08 16:19:57 US/Mountain
Greg is not an independent investigator
by at 2006/01/20 19:17:49 US/Mountain
Greg is a BLM Law Enforcement Ranger in the Bakersfield BLM Office.

Just thought you should know. He is not an independent investigator.

Here is his address at the BLM Bakersfield Office from a news article. At this point I wouldn’t trust anyone in the BLM.

Contact: BLM Acting Ranger Greg Aumann at (661) 391-6008 or write: USDI BLM 3801 Pegasus Drive Bakersfield, CA 93308 Attn: Greg Aumann

Greg Aumann
by Anonymous at 2006/02/06 17:16:01 US/Mountain
Greg Aumann is not a Ranger, he is a BLM Special Agent. Special Agents conduct personnel investigations within BLM. Aumann does not have the best reputation among BLM law enforcement officers, and I have read one of his reports which whitewashed misconduct committed by a BLM Ranger who was formerly a favorite of management.
Another problem
by KF at 2005/12/16 23:42:16 US/Mountain
I feel for Marlene and her plight, and for her family and friends that so deeply feel her loss. I too have worked for BLM for many years and have found it to be a great place to work. There are good managers and there are bad managers. There are good employees and there are bad employees. Although I didn’t know Marlene or her supervisor, it sounds like it was a mix of a dedicated employee and a bad manager… an unfortunate blend. I have never witnessed BLM managers bullying (not saying it doesn’t happen) but I have been very aware that many employees that complain about their managers (EEO complaints, whistle blowing, retaliation claims, grievances, etc) are just looking for a person to blame for their own inability to perform or they have a general problem with authority. The laws are there to protect employees and to root out bad managers. I would just encourage people to use the law appropriatly, otherwise more and more of us (or “them”) will continue to see the complainers as a bunch of whiners.

If there were fewer whiners (false claims of inappropriate activities) then more attention and action could be given to real problems, as it appears Marlene’s was. In my opinion the whiners that clog the system with malicious, false claims have to share the blame with the bad managers.

by M at 2005/12/18 06:46:02 US/Mountain
How does one tell the whiners from the ones with real problems? Some people thought Marlene was paranoid and over-reacting (and clearly some people at BLM still do). I agree the Bad Managers are not outweighed by dedicated people, but I think if you try to silence the people you say are “whining” you’ll have a system that will believe all complainers are whiners. I know of a person who is getting sick leave right now probably unfairly using up the sick bank because she says she is under stress and everyone is walking around on tenderhooks. Still, who am I to say? Most people suck it up until they can’t anymore. We all know that there are a lot of people in certain places in California that are all saying the same things about being harassed and it’s the duty of the agency to investigate every claim. If some turn out to be false, that is the price we pay to protect the reports that are truthful. I have no sympathy for whiners, but after what happened with Marlene and what I heard around the office that she was just a complainer, etc. and then it all turned out to be true, we need to be extra careful.
by at 2005/12/19 08:50:21 US/Mountain
C.P.M. said…The “us” and “them” is precisely the problem. Bullying can happen to YOU! Marlene was a manager, and not a whiner. She fought hard for her staff and “complained” that her budget was not enough. But she did not complain about the abuse, except to try to get mediation through proper channels. Complaining, moreover, isn’t whining. She didn’t tell anyone at BLM who was working under her supervision that she was being bullied. She was thinking of her staff.

KF says he/she feels Marlene’s case was a genuine case. Many at Bakersfield BLM do not (while others of us disagree). People need to listen when others complain, not merely shrug them off as whiners. As someone trained in mediation, I have learned that when some people complain, there is a root to the problem they aren’t telling you, and you can resolve the issue if you find out what that is. Sometimes, though, what is going on is very deep, hard to explain, the people being subject to the harassment are beginning to sound stressed and illogical from the pressure, and in a lack of willingness to pursue investigations, those in charge throw up their hands. It isn’t us and them. Managers as well as staff can be bullied. Everyone has someone above him or her. We need to stop labeling people whiners. It’s a cop out. There are people who malinger and want sympathy, and we all know who they are. It actually isn’t too hard to figure that out. But even they ought to be listened to, because like the boy who cried wolf, sometimes there is a wolf.

reply to comments
by A.J. at 2005/12/19 20:34:21 US/Mountain
Definitions of a WHINER;

A person given to excessive complaints and crying and whining.

An affected, thin and ingratiating nasal tone of voice.

A person, especially a child, who complains or expresses dissatisfaction continually.

Definitions of a WIMP;

A person who lacks confidence, is irresolute and wishy-washy.

A weakly, interacting massive particle, WIMP

A hypothetical subatomic particle of large mass that interacts weakly

with ordinary matter through gravitation;

postulated as a constituent of the dark matter of the universe.

Definition of a Winner;

That’s the women or men that are in the lead when the power shuts

off at the end of the race.

Someone who gives 100% of their effort in preparation for and during competition.

Definition of an Introvert & Extrovert;

A person who tends to shrink from social contacts and to become preoccupied with their own thoughts.

The terms Introvert and Extrovert (spelled Extravert by Carl Jung), were originally employed by Sigmund Freud and given significant amplification later by Jung. The terms refer to “attitudes” and show how a person orients and receives their energy. In the Extraverted attitude the energy flow is outward, and the preferred focus is on people and things, whereas in the Introverted attitude the energy flow is inward, and the preferred focus

is on thoughts and ideas.

I am not quite sure I understand where KF is coming from.

Is he/she referring to Marlene’s situation in the Bakersfield BLM or the ladies in the Redding BLM office?

Regardless, this might put things in perspective;

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, there could be alot of blank pages missing

if you don’t read it carefully.”

by KF at 2005/12/21 00:34:45 US/Mountain
Where am I coming from? All I’m saying is , employees need to police themselves better and report cases that truly need investigation. I am aware of cases currently and in the past where the employee just was “out to get” the boss for a fill-in-the-blank reason. It wasn’t harrassment or anything similar but was a way to accomplish character asassination and bring caos to the organization. I’ve witnessed it. I am not saying that the agency should not investigate but I am saying that the inappropriate complaints are a malignancy in the system that tends to deny credibility to the serious issues that ARE out there. I am not advocating management taking a role in tossing out the Whiners complaints. I AM saying that all of us need to discourage malicious claims with no merit so that the serious ones will receive the proper level of attention. And, yes, I would say that the claims in Redding, based on my information, are bogus, totally without merit, and the claimants are childish, immature and seeking revenge for a personal issue.
by KM at 2005/12/21 20:13:27 US/Mountain
Sounds to me like you, KF, are doing some whining yourself. You mention claims in the Redding office, to me that means more than one person is complaining, when more than one complains there is probably a good reason to do so, I wouldn’t call it whining, I would call it something that might need to be corrected by the person the complaint is about. I worked in a USDA Office and I know firsthand there is sometimes very good reason to complain about management when the management is throwing their authority around. I always thought that people working in a service oriented workplace should have common goals to make that workplace run smoothly.
Not the same person
by M at 2005/12/24 11:46:26 US/Mountain
Just a note… this person writing about whiners (called M) is NOT the M from Montana. Please do not confuse the two.
BLM Management
by NMI at 2006/01/15 12:20:16 US/Mountain
Lord help us. With as many vacancies as they have at BLM California, I hope that doesn’t mean CA BLM will be hiring this Ralph Mason character any time soon!

That’s usually what BLM Management does. They just move their problem Managers/Supervisors around within the state, or with other BLM offices in another state if things are really bad. They never fire them…I’m sure this Ron H person in Bakersfield is one of those “transfers”.

I was a former CA BLM supervisor and know first hand how they “take care of their own when they want to”. They would rather deal with dozens of greviences and lose 50 employees over a period of time than to admit they hired someone who should be fired! And if you’re the one who is bringing up the issues and pointing out the problem Manager, supervisor or not, YOU become the problem..not the Manager. Then hang on to your horses, cause they will come after you. Marlene found out the length of which they will go and how far up the chain this insanity goes!

Duck & cover, smoke and mirrors. Now you know why CA BLM employees have a union! I feel sorry for the mid-level management like Marlene who are stuck in the middle and have very little recourse against the bullying that goes on. Fear, reprisal and intimidation become every day occurences if you’re not a team player.

My condolences to her family and friends.

BLM New Mexico
by at 2006/01/05 12:41:43 US/Mountain

Local man indicted, accused of bribing BLM

By Nathan Gonzalez and Debra Mayeux The Daily Times

Dec 29, 2005, 06:00 am

FARMINGTON — A prominent business man has been indicted on federal charges that he bribed a former Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employee.

Norman Geoff McMahon, 71, of Farmington, was indicted Dec. 14 by a grand jury in federal District Court in Albuquerque. It is alleged he bribed Ralph Mason, a formar BLM employee, four times.

McMahon is best known as an area land developer, who is responsible for most of the housing in Crouch Mesa through the Morningstar Subdivision. He is also the founder of Morningstar Water Users Association and was involved in local politics.

McMahon has donated more than $20,000 to a number of Republican political campaigns, according to, a Web site dedicated to reporting political contributions.

The Bureau of Land Management was not aware of the indictment as of Wednesday.

“Nobody (with the BLM) has received anything in writing or have received any phone calls,” said Bill Papich, a spokesman for the BLM’s Farmington office. “If a bribe was reported, the BLM would take it really seriously. We will be doing a thorough investigation.”

Papich said that Mason had been “let go by the BLM a while back,” but was unaware of exactly when that was.

According to court documents, McMahon allegedly gave a total of $7,000 to Mason between Dec. 15, 2000, and Feb. 15, 2002.

The indictment states the funds were given “in return for influencing the public official in the performance of any official act relating to the Bureau of Land Management permit to mine humate.”

Humate is an organic mineral comprised of highly biodegraded and compressed remains of ancient plant and animals fossilized over a period of millions of years. The mineral is used as soil conditioners, soil supplements, and fertilizer amendments.

McMahon was indicted on two counts for two separate payments of $2,500 on or about Dec. 15, 2000, drawn on Flora Corporation’s account at Wells Fargo Bank. Two other charges included two separate payments of $1,000 each on or around Feb. 15, 2002, drawn from Constar Company’s account at Wells Fargo.

These are two of McMahon’s many New Mexico Corporations, which include Morningstar Domestic Water User’s Association, Product, Morningstar Minerals and Nutrition Supply Corporation. He was also the president of the now-defunct Tierra Engineering and Environmental Services and was the pastor of Farmington Ecumenical Christian Fellowship.

A voice message left for McMahon for comment was not returned; neither was one left for his business attorney Gary Risley.

An official at the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque also did not return a phone call for comment

Freedom of speach
by at 2006/01/10 12:14:53 US/Mountain
Amendment I – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. NoteCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I have looked into this for anyone who has posted Blogs and such. Here are the facts:

The BLM cannot block News sites and cannot send an email out to all the employees asking them not to post blogs. Employees are not suppose to use government computers for personal use, they can however read the News articles. If they want to post a blog they have that right on their home computer and during off work hours. The employees are protected under the First Amendment. I truly believe that Marlene’s email should have been protected under the First amendment. I personally do not think what she wrote was disparging or slanderous comments towards Mr. Huntsinger. Mr. Jim Abbott signed her appeal letter as Mike Pool’s acting and denied her appeal and said her remarks were indeed disparging. I don’t think Mike Pool is being informed of everything and I believe there is a double edged sword here because the Redding management staff have slandered the women in Redding as well as women elsewhere and there is proof of that. It seems that when an employee makes the littlest remark about management, management tries to discipline the employee, however when management makes serious slanderous remarks about employees they get off scott free and it’s okay for them to do that. That is what happened with the women in Redding and they notified the State Director, Associate State Director and other high officials and nothing was done about it as far as the BLM CA State Office goes. This issue is being addressed by a law enforcement agency.

*Note* There were cases where the Department of Justice got a search warrant to find out who was sending emails to the press and also posting comments on websites in the past unrelated to BLM. The Newspapers and Media denied the DOJ that information because it was considered protected under the Privacy Act. The DOJ fought it and lost. The news media, newspapers, etc. didn’t have to give out the requested information.

Amendment IV – Search and seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The BLM management in Bakersfield and the CA BLM State Office had no right to take Marlene’s computer and files. The Goodwin Ranch was a site after Marlene’s death designated as an investigative site and the BLM had no right to have taken items etc. This is also being looked into by a law enforcement agency.

Amendment V – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

This amendment also protects the employees along with the First Amendment regarding posting on Blogs.

What Mike Pool Knows
by Ex-BLM at 2006/02/07 12:45:44 US/Mountain
The previous poster stated he doesn’t believe BLM California State Director Mike Pool knows all of what is going on in his name, much of it signed off by his associate Jim Abbott.

Mr. Pool has a reputation for pretending to be the nice guy, or out of the loop, when he is really directing the show. Don’t be fooled.

Concerning the BLM bribery issue in New Mexico, Mr. Pool was District Manager in Farmington several years ago. I’ve been told that he was investigated, but not charged, with a royalties scandal which occurred during his tenure there.

by G.B. at 2006/01/10 11:20:21 US/Mountain
You meant to say personnel not personal, right?
No Correction needed
by at 2006/01/11 08:13:49 US/Mountain
When I say “personal” I mean “personal”. No typo above if that is what you are referring to.
More info BLM New Mexico
by Watchdog4 at 2006/01/24 21:20:11 US/Mountain

Public Corruption—Farmington, New Mexico

When US Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting bribes a month ago, it was a perfect example of the type of enormous largess people tend to expect when they think of public corruption. For example, Mr. Cunningham received cash, cars, rugs, antiques, furniture, yacht club fees, moving expenses, and vacations totally roughly $2.4 million from defense contractors in exchange for aid in winning defense contracts.[1] He also received a Rolls Royce, a graduation party for his daughter, a $200,000 down payment on a condominium, and the payment of capital gains taxes on the sale of his home.[2] When some of the assets related to the bribery case were seized for auction, it was a demonstration of sheer opulence: Persian rugs, a silver candelabra, vases, armoires, a leather sofa, a sleigh-style bed, and even a 19th-century French commode (which is a chest of drawers, not a toilet).[3]

Largess, however, is certainly not required to have the federal government seek an indictment for public corruption. Norman Geoff McMahon of Farmington, New Mexico can certainly attest to that. Mr. McMahon was indicted on December 14 by a federal grand jury in the Albuquerque federal District Court.[4] He is accused of bribing Ralph Mason, a former Bureau of Land Management [hereinafter BLM] employee, a total of four times.[5] The total amount of the alleged bribes? Only $7,000 over a 14-month period: there were allegedly two separate payments of $2,500 made “on or about Dec. 15, 2000,” and two payments of $1,000 made “on or about Feb. 15, 2002.”[6]

The indictment, which BLM denies any knowledge of its existence, states that the funds were given “in return for influencing the public official in the performance of any official act relating to the [BLM] permit to mine humate.”[7] Humate is a mineral made from fossilized plants and animals which is used in fertilizer.[8] According to a spokesman for BLM’s Farmington office, Mr. Mason was “let go” by BLM some time ago, but wouldn’t provide a reason for the discharge.[9]

The reason why public corruption prosecutions can target both high-rollers and more modest “givers” is because the federal statute covering bribery sets an incredibly low threshold. In short, if any person gives anything of value to any public official, with the intent to influence any official act, the federal government can prosecute that person.[10]

The intent of the “giver” is key in these situations. Obviously, if the offeror of the bribe writes “in exchange for influencing an official act” in the memo section of his check, that would pretty well establish the requisite intent. Typically, however, circumstances are not that clear-cut. Furthermore, the thing of value “must be given with more than some ‘generalized hope or expectation of ultimate benefit on the part of the donor.’ … The money must be offered, in other words, with the intent and design to influence official action in exchange for the donation.”[11] The recipient of the bribe, moreover, does not need to be “actually corrupted by the offer,” nor is it “necessary to show that the official accepted the bribe.”[12]

Intent can be proven by introducing evidence of “overheard conversations” or by introducing “circumstantial evidence” which tends to suggest the requisite intent.[13]

Marlene Braun
by Lesa Donnelly at 2006/02/23 02:00:39 US/Mountain
A friend recently sent me The Billings Outpost article on Marlene Braun. She wanted me to see the responses to the article. I first heard about Ms. Braun’s situation and suicide last summer when someone sent me the LA Times article. Ms. Braun’s tragedy is not an isolated incident. Employees who do not “go along to get along” while working for the federal government will receive harsh treatment in the form of bullying, intimidation and adverse personnel actions. Ms. Braun’s supervisor used these tactics against her to get her to “behave” and to retaliate when she did not.

There is an insidious method of shutting down employees who raise allegations of harassment, discrimination, reprisal, whistleblower, etc. Management uses conduct and performance to terrorize employees. It usually works because the employee is trumped up with false allegations and is often terminated. Or the employee loses his/her physical and/or mental health and can no longer cope with the job. I’ve seen employees with 15 years in federal service just quit the job. I’ve seen employees become physically incapacitated, become deeply depressed and anxious, go into mental hospitals, attempt suicide, get divorced, lose children to Child Protective Services, go into unrecoverable debt, and lose their homes – all because of the impacts of working in a hostile environment.

I worked for the USDA for 25 years. I filed a class action lawsuit, “Donnelly v. Glickman” and “Donnelly v. Veneman” against the Forest Service in 1995. Website searches will provide info on the lawsuit and the many interviews in newspaper articles. I won certification of the lawsuit on behalf of 6000 female employees in California. A settlement resulted. The entire ordeal lasted from October, 1993 through January, 2006. Because I was the lead class agent in the lawsuit the agency went after me with every resource they had. Prior to 1994 I had never had a conduct or performance problem and, in fact, had received numerous cash awards. After I filed the lawsuit I was investigated 3 times, accused of being violent, given unacceptable performance ratings, received letters of reprimand (too many to count), 2 suspensions, Leave Without Pay, AWOL, had my duties removed, had my job abolished 3 times, was placed on leave restriction etc. I had my phone tapped, was stalked by Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers while off work, received threatening phone calls and had my home broken into twice that I knew of. Coworkers that I had known for years were afraid to speak with me because management would grill them about our discussions. Some employees were told to spy on me. The agency did a background investigation on me. Management came into my office and took pictures of everything in it and all the pictures/jokes that I had on the walls. I was harassed about taking time off for my father’s funeral. I could go on and on about what the USDA & Forest Service management did to me from 1993 through 2002. I had approximately 50 EEO complaints filed.

I fought them and won.

Not only that, I represented other employees who filed EEO complaints. I mentored with my attorney and learned the ins and outs of employment law. I left the agency in 2002 with a large settlement. Since I had been representing employees since 1994 (on government time)I started a business with my brother – Donnelly & Donnelly Alternative Dispute Resolutions. We’ve represented hundreds of employees in the EEO process from informal through hearing. We’ve represented employees at MSPB. I’ve done hundreds of mediations and settled many complainants. I read one response that said there was no where to go and no one to turn to. If anyone out there needs help, CALL ME! My number is 530-365-3456 (Anderson, CA. just south of Redding). Government managers want EEO complainants to think they are isolated, alone and have no recourse. It is a way of shutting down complaints and complainants. I currently represent some employees who work for the Interior. I’ve represented BLM employees in the past. If you know anyone who needs EEO help or just needs to talk to someone who has been through it, give them my number. It is important that we support the employees who are going through the nightmare of workplace bullying, harassment or any type of hostile environment. As Marlene Braun has shown, some employees very lives depend upon it.

Lesa L. Donnelly

Marlene Braun
by Lesa Donnelly at 2006/02/23 02:02:24 US/Mountain
Just realized I forgot my email

Feel free to email or call if you need to talk or if you are looking for assistance in an employment law matter.


Thank you Ms. Donnelly
by at 2006/02/23 21:45:19 US/Mountain
Ms. Donnelly; I bet your phone is ringing off the hook and your voice message machine has run out of tape.You had better be careful and screen your callers, one knows that BLM will hire someone to call you and check you out.

I think it is about time that those Bad Land Managers in California start realizing that there is a revolution among women happening and they had better start running.

I can just see it now, how gratifying and I am not a woman. I have watched and listened to them express concern of the office environment, the hostility created by the male managers who think they are God and above the law.

That’s just not acceptable in today’s society gentlemen, there is proof of that and there will be proof in the future I am sure after Ms. Donnelly gathers her endless pieces of paper with names of BLM women employees who are calling her!

Re: another problem
by One of the “whiners” at 2006/04/22 20:30:31 GMT-6
Kelly,It has taken me a while to respond to you because I was not sure how to go about it. Yes we knew it was you all this time. You know for someone who likes to quote the facts you should get yours straight. The Redding issue has not gone away and even now you and the others are being watched by people a lot bigger than work in that office. You may have thought you and the others got away with it but ” those who steal from the people must pay back to the PEOPLE” I hope you still feel that the side you chose was the right one when your jail cell is next to your “good buddy”. Good luck with your paranoia now. Marlene’s death will never be in vain if it brings the corruption in the California BLM out in the open. AND BELIEVE ME IT WILL!!!
Marlene Braun suicide
by Delilah Hart at 2006/02/28 10:41:55 US/Mountain
I found out about Marlene Braun’s suicide from an anti-bullying website.Unfortunately,especially in this country, not enough attention is paid to the issue of bullying, whether it be in the schoolyard or in the workplace.Also unfortunately, some workplaces, especially bureaucracies like the one where Marlene worked, actually encouraging bullying behaviors.Maybe if more attention is brought to bullying and its effects on its victims and if good legislation is passed, there will be fewer Marlene Brauns and fewer bosses like the one who led to her final, desperate act.
Here are the facts
by at 2006/02/28 19:02:07 US/Mountain
The Greg Aumann who IS employed with the Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management Bakersfield Office as a Special Agent is not participating in ANY INVESTIGATIONS into Ms. Braun’s death nor is he investigating any other BLM Field Office in California.

1) There could be another person named Greg Aumann who is a private investigator hired by the family of Ms. Braun, however that is unlikely to have the same name.

2) There could be someone spreading false information to “stir the pot” so to speak.

3) There could be someone protraying to be Agent Aumann from the BLM.

THE FACT IS: Agent Morrow with the Department of Interior, Office of Inspector General in Washington DC IS the Official Lead Investigator into Ms. Brauns death. If you have information to share regarding Ms. Braun’s death or other Field Office issues, you only need to speak with Agent Morrow and he can be reached at 202-208-6261.

Your information and identity will be kept confidential.

Thank you

by lesa donnelly at 2006/03/02 17:22:51 US/Mountain
Since my post I’ve received contacts from quite a few folks out there. Everything is confidential and no one will know who has contacted me. I am glad to be of assistance. Again, my phone number is 530-365-3456 and my email is

My spam blocker is on high so please put something regarding BLM or DOI in the subject line so I don’t miss the message. I may have missed one, so if I don’t respond to you, try again.

Regarding the post from the alleged Greg Aumann…I do not believe it was from him. I’ve received no contacts from anyone claiming to be him. I think that someone posted the comment to try to scare people away from contacting me. Please be assured that I will not speak with any investigator, employee or member of the public regarding Ms. Braun or any other situation I am aware of. Confidentiality is the utmost importance in civil rights or workplace matters. I take it as seriously as if it were atty-client privledge. I admire all of you out there who are trying to fight discrimination and harassment in the workplace. We all must support each other. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that when one of us is oppressed we are all oppressed. When one of us rises, we all rise. Keep fighting The Good Fight.


by CDD at 2006/03/04 21:16:07 US/Mountain
Okay…we will keep trying. Thanks
To So Ca BLM
by Lesa L. Donnelly at 2006/03/05 15:32:47 US/Mountain
Response to BLM in So Caby Lesa Donnelly at 2006/03/04 20:39:14 US/Mountain

Hello ladies. Thank you for your support. Fear of retaliation is healthy. It is your survival instincts kicking in. It is much easier to survive reprisal when there is support from coworkers. I see that you tried calling. My internet phone line is not working and until I get SBC in to look at it I’ve been using my phone line to get on the internet. When that occurs callers will either get a constant ring or a busy signal. Sorry about that. Try again. My voice mail goes to my home and is confidential. My email is the same. Your names and information will be kept completely confidential.

I am getting quite a few calls from BLM women in CA. I’m thinking that it might be ripe for a CA class action complaint similar to Donnelly v. Veneman/Donnelly v. Glickman in the Forest Service in CA. For those who fear coming forward at this time, we can speak with you confidentially to gather information. Women who retired, were fired or quit the BLM recently can join a class action. If you don’t have an active EEO complaint you would still be considered a class member. When I filed the Donnelly Class there were approx. 2,500 FS women working in CA. When the judge certified the class, he certified it on behalf of 6,000 women in CA. That is because it included women who quit, retired and were fired. It also included temporary employees.

For those who may feel more comfortable speaking with a BLM employee instead of me or prior to speaking with me, I suggest calling or emailing these two women.

Traci Hallstrom

phone: 530-241-1676




Andrea Carter

phone: 530-347-4524


Traci and Andrea have alot of information to share. We are working together on BLM issues of discrimination, HWE and reprisal. There is truly strength in unity. We look forward to working with other BLM women and men…..lesa

Gathering Storm
by Lesa L. Donnelly at 2006/03/06 12:25:43 US/Mountain
Hello All. I’ve decided to use this blog for informational purposes to get info from me to emps in CA BLM, and particularly to those interested in a class action and media strategy. I heard from 4 women today (not in Redding) interested both in a Class Action and a media blitz. I’ve also heard from some men who are supportive. More info to come…lesa
US Interior Gail Norton Resigns
by Happy at 2006/03/10 21:28:12 US/Mountain
Interior Secretary Norton to Step DownEnvironmentalists Applaud; Secretary Pushed Energy, Recreation Development

By Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, March 11, 2006; Page A02

Click to access norton_resignation031006.pdf

Gale A. Norton, who as secretary of the interior reopened Yellowstone National Park to snowmobiles and pushed for greater energy development on public land, announced yesterday that she will relinquish her post by the end of the month.

Norton won plaudits from business leaders but earned the enmity of many environmentalists during her often contentious five-year tenure. She said she has no immediate plans but expects to work in the private sector and spend more time in the West.

“I look forward to visiting a national park and not holding a press conference in there,” said Norton, who turns 52 today and has served at the Interior Department longer than all but six of her predecessors. “I look forward to being able to contemplate the wilderness without having reporters and their notebooks following me.”

Norton’s resignation comes as a federal criminal task force continues to investigate former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s dealings with her department. The task force is examining, among other issues, former deputy secretary J. Steven Griles’s discussions with Abramoff at a time when the lobbyist was seeking departmental actions on behalf of his tribal clients. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to federal charges of political corruption.

Norton said the probe did not play a role in her decision to step down and added later: “I want to return to having a private life again.”

A Kansas native who moved to Colorado when she was 5, Norton spoke often about her love of wilderness and went canoeing with D.C. area schoolchildren to promote outdoor recreation. But environmentalists decried several of her policies, including allowing snowmobiling that they said prompted endangered woodland caribou to flee Idaho for Canada, and failing to reduce a National Park Service maintenance backlog that may total $9.7 billion. Environmentalists also accused of Norton of weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.

Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, issued a terse news release on learning of Norton’s departure: “Good riddance.”

Some conservative groups praised Norton’s emphasis on “cooperative conservation,” in which federal and private groups gave landowners financial incentives to preserve their property.

“We have been honored to work closely with Secretary Norton to enhance and expand a number of key cooperative conservation efforts,” said Nature Conservancy President Steven J. McCormick, who added that the department’s initiatives “brought new investments in private land conservation and fostered numerous productive public-private partnerships to conserve ecologically important landscapes across the country.”

Norton played more of a bad-cop role in her dealings with Western states squabbling over the region’s scarce water supply, forcing California to give up some of its Colorado River water. Last month, her tough bargaining helped persuade seven states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — to reach a pact on how to deal with water shortages from the Colorado and manage the river’s reservoirs.

Like other members of President Bush’s Cabinet, Norton pressed repeatedly for greater domestic oil and gas drilling.

Yesterday she touted the government’s boosting of natural gas production on federal lands by 17 percent between 2001 and 2004, which prompted National Association of Manufacturers President John M. Engler to praise Norton for having “steered the U.S. toward a foundation for future domestic energy production.”

Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the Resources Committee who has known Norton since they served as their states’ respective attorneys general in the 1990s, said the aggressive drive for energy development angered residents of the West and harmed the region’s wildlife.

“We’ve remained friends, but we’ve disagreed on most of her policy agenda,” Udall said. “The legacy of this administration has been reversing 40 years of progress on the environment.”

Bush praised Norton as “a strong advocate for the wise use and protection of our nation’s natural resources.” White House and Interior Department officials gave no indication of who might succeed Norton, and Udall said it may “be hard to find a person of stature” now that Bush has less than three years left in office.

In a telephone conference with reporters, Norton defended Griles, her former deputy. Federal investigators are looking into Griles’s possible attempts to intervene on behalf of Abramoff, according to lawyers and others familiar with the investigation.

“I know that Steve Griles was a great asset for this department, and what I saw of his conduct was aboveboard and very conscientious,” she said.

Also under investigation is Norton’s friend Italia Federici and a public interest group she heads — the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, known as CREA — which Norton co-founded with conservative anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist in the 1990s.

In an attempt to influence the Interior Department — which has the final say on an Indian tribe’s gambling ambitions — Abramoff developed close ties with Federici and directed his casino-rich tribal clients to give $500,000 to CREA. Federici had a personal relationship with Griles and often agreed to press him on issues important to Abramoff’s clients, according to e-mail obtained by The Washington Post and investigators for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said his committee has found no evidence Norton knew that Abramoff and Federici were trading on her name, and Norton’s spokesman has said Norton was not aware of their activities in trying to influence the department.

Griles’s attorney declined to comment on the investigation yesterday, and Federici’s lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.

Staff writers James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt and researcher Don Pohlman contributed to this report.

Secretary Norton
by at 2006/03/13 10:49:41 US/Mountain
If the success of an organization can be measured by how it treats its employees, then Interior Secretary Gale Norton doesn’t cut it.

Secretary Norton has been warned for years, including by her own Inspector General, that the disciplinary practices of the various Interior agencies are badly dysfunctional. They are routinely misused by malicous managers to inflict political punishment. She has done nothing to reform these practices. She stood by while the Honestchief was unlawfully removed from her job, and these practices allowed the unjust suspension of Marlene Braun prior to her suicide.

BLM Redding and OIG Investigations
by at 2006/05/01 20:29:07 GMT-6
There are women in the BLM Redding Office who are designated whistleblowers. There is an impending investigation from Department of Interior Office of Inspector General, Office of Special Counsel and EEO. The tension is high in the Redding Office and the male managers are acting inappropriately with the women. EEO complaints have been filed. The women have been retaliated against on an almost daily basis by the Field Office Mgr., Asst. Field Mgr. and their supervisors.The women have claims of misappropriation of fire monies along with other whistleblower claims. There were at least two controversial fires that drew negative public attention – homes and property destroyed. BLM admitted their error in starting the 1999 Lowden fire due to untrained and unqualified personnel. Among other claims, the 2004 French fire rehab monies have been used fraudulently by the above-managers.

Additionally, there are still men making decisions about burning and doing controlled burns that do not even have Red card qualifications and are not following proper procedures. This could result in another fire like the 1999 Lowden fire which was started by BLM error and burned homes. One of the whistleblowers was recently fired by the BLM CA Associate State Director, the Redding Field Office manager and her supervisor because they are alleging that she is not qualified in her fire position due to not passing a pack test. She had 18 years in Federal Government service and only 8 years left to retire. One woman, during her recent performance evaluation was physically and verbally intimidated by her supervisor. The CA State Office is doing nothing to stop this behavior.

I think those women are brave and the public should know about the waste, fraud and abuse of the tax payer money that was earmarked to go to fire rehab and that unqualified employees and the unprofessional behaviors that resulted in the BLM fire that burned homes are still happening and there is a public safety risk. The local Redding, California community and the overall California community will be needlessly, but rightly so, concerned or frightened for their safety.

Fire season is starting soon and something must be done with the managers in the BLM Redding, California Office as well as some officials in the BLM CA State Director’s office to alleviate the safety problem and the retaliation matter. The BLM CA State office has been covering up for the BLM Redding manager’s and supervisors. It’s time to bring ethics back into the office which is much needed in the BLM CA.

If the CA BLM State Office hasn’t listened to the Redding women and their were originally 6 complainants and now down to three (Quid Pro Quo?), then one can only assume they never listened to Marlene Braun in Bakersfield. Something is very wrong with the way the BLM CA State office handles the No Fear Act Zero Tolerance Policy as well as Sexual Harassment Zero Tolerance Policy. They seem to cover-up for their managers who are doing the wrong-doing and could care less about the other employees.

by at 2006/05/03 08:31:48 GMT-6
In regards to your question, the FBI investigates a wide variety of economic crimes. We are usually tipped off to these cases by citizens, victims of criminal activity and from concerned people inside the various industries we investigate. Some major categories of white collar crime include:

Public Corruption — Voters deserve politicians and public servants who are honest and spend public money wisely. When there is wrongdoing, however, the FBI will work to convict those who have broken trust with our citizens.

by Scott at 2006/05/22 19:49:21 GMT-6
So what is the status of the EEO investigation on the women in Redding and then I heard there was another EEO investigation that was just settled with the former BLM CA National Monument manager for the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. We had heard she was detailed to the CA BLM State office…what was the outcome of her case…anyone know?

What’s up with the investigation report into Marlene Braun’s death?

We as taxpayers have the right to know, otherwise I guess we will have to hear it from the media.


Great sites!
by Concerned at 2006/06/11 08:48:08 GMT-6
Federal Employees Against Retaliation (F.E.A.R.)

Once you go to that page, you can click on the F.E.A.R. Blog and read comments from Federal employees who have had enough.

This is quite a huge step that they have taken and I admire them for it.

Retaliation against Ms Braun
by at 2006/06/11 10:43:39 GMT-6
What BLM laws were being violated that were the subject of Ms Braun’s emails to BLM, before she took her life. and why did BLM confisciate her computer to cover that up, and did Ms Braun’s trustee get her hard-drive or hand copies of what she had written to BLM before any BOL retaliations.. Can any answer thsoe matters as to laws involved being violated by BLM, with facts, and particulars, and laws in issue
Violation of Law
by at 2006/06/11 10:44:16 GMT-6
You bet we can provide the facts, laws, general orders and BLM procedures in which Marlene’s case should have been handled.

However, posting them on a Blog is not appropriate. If you are truly interested then I suggest you get a copy of the police report, and go to your nearest BLM office and look through the General Orders, CFR’s and Department Manuals. There you will find the laws, and yes, I would have to say, BLM never followed those procedures correctly.

As far as your other questions, the BLM laws you refer to, those would be Federal laws and procedures which should be followed, but are not. There are several policys that are to be followed, which are not.

There are several cover-ups within the BLM California State Office as well as other offices, but ultimately the final decision comes from the BLM CA State Director’s office and the DOI-BLM Office of Law Enforcement services in DC. Only those DOI & BLM federal employees and law enforcement officers/supervisor’s know what general orders etc., were not handled properly and those are the individuals who should step up to the plate and file a disclosure with the Office of Special Counsel instead of keeping what you know to yourself and have it eat at you for the rest of your life. You know who you are.

BLM New Grazing Regs
by Kathy at 2006/07/23 16:53:08 GMT-6
Readers please check the BLM website for the new grazing regulations released July 12, 2006 and due to go into effect next month, Aug.2006. They give the ranchers more control and the public much less say in the management of our public lands. Go to the BLM News Bytes site at: for the detailed report and to for information regarding the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in response to the new regs.I personally am grateful to Marlene Braun for trying to let the science determine when grazing was appropriate and not a powerful interest group with a financial conflict of interest. I wish our representatives shared this strength of character. Please write them and urge them to manage our public lands as dictated by science and not the almighty dollar.
BLM News Release
by at 2006/07/28 18:16:51 GMT-6
U.S. Department of the InteriorBureau of Land Management

News Release

For Release: July 26, 2006 CA-SO-06-11

Contact: John Dearing (916) 978-4622 or Dave Christy (916) 985-4474

Carrizo Plain National Monument Planning to Resume

With the recent appointment of the new Carrizo Plain National Monument Advisory Committee, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is ready to resume work with the public on a draft resource management plan (RMP) to guide the monumentâ?Ts future, according to BLM State Director Mike Pool.

The committee, a nine-member panel appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, will advise BLM on development of the plan, said Pool. â?oWeâ?Tre very pleased to have the new committee in place and we look forward to their help in crafting a land use plan that both recognizes the special values that led to the monumentâ?Ts designation and provides for an appropriate level of public use and enjoyment.â?

BLM has decided to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to support the plan, based on â?opublic requests and our interest in expanding public involvement in the planning process,â? he said.

In cooperation with the committee, the BLM and its monument managing partners, The Nature Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Game, will be conducting additional public scoping meetings later this fall to gather input on issues to be addressed in the draft RMP and EIS, expected to be ready for public review and comment sometime in 2007. Prior scoping comments received will also be addressed to ensure the documents are responsive to all public issues and concerns.

The Carrizo Plain, the largest undeveloped remnant of the once vast San Joaquin Valley ecosystem, was designated a national monument in 2001 in recognition of its special resource values, including threatened and endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, and blunt-nosed leopard lizard. It also contains nationally significant geological features, such as one of the best exposed examples of the 10-million year old San Andreas Fault, as well as one of the most significant cultural sites in California at Painted Rock. In the spring, the Plain exhibits a lavish wildflower display of goldfields, purple owls, lupine, and the rare California jewelflower.

Carrizo Plain Advisory Committee members are: Ellen Cypher, PhD, plant ecologist and research ecologist, Bakersfield; Neil Havlik, PhD, natural resources manager, San Luis Obispo; Raymond Hatch, former mayor, Taft; Michael Khus-Zarate, an educator and member of the Carrizo Plain Native American Advisory Council, Fresno; Dale Kuhnle, rancher, Santa Margarita; Jim Patterson, San Luis Obispo County supervisor, Atascadero; Robert Pavlik, environmental planner, San Luis Obispo; Carl Twisselman, rancher and member of the BLM Central California Resource Advisory Council, McKittrick; and Raymond Watson, Kern County supervisor, Bakersfield.

Further information on the Carrizo Plain can be obtained from BLMâ?Ts Bakersfield Field Office, 3801 Pegasus Dr., Bakersfield, Calif., 93308 or (661) 391-6000.


California State Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825

by at 2006/07/28 18:24:02 GMT-6
New life for Carrizo Plain plan a year after suicideIdeas for how to use the grasslands will get the thorough review the

monument’s manager wanted before she died

By David Whitney

WASHINGTON — Nearly 15 months after the manager of the Carrizo Plain

National Monument killed herself in an ultimate act of job frustration,

the Bureau of Land Management is reviving the process of creating a

management plan for the 250,000-acre preserve.

Marlene Braun killed herself May 2, 2005, capping a months-long dispute

with her bosses over how the grasslands preserve should be managed and in

the process earning reprimands and suspensions for what her superiors

considered intemperate acts of insubordination.

The backdrop for the battles was more political than personal. Created by

presidential proclamation just hours before President Clinton left office

in 2001, the Carrizo Plain had become a battleground over cattle grazing

on public lands — an issue on which the BLM typically found itself siding

with cattlemen.

These public lands, on the border between Kern and San Luis Obispo

counties, are the last big patch of wild grasslands left in California

and the home of the largest concentration of endangered species in the

state. Some, such as the giant kangaroo rat, are in direct competition

with cattle.

Braun had openly complained that she felt efforts to curtail grazing were

being resisted at higher pay grades in the agency and that she was

suffering the fallout.

She was not alone in feeling that a bureaucratic cloud had fallen over

the Carrizo.

“Four months before her death, we were in a holding pattern,” said Neil

Havlik, natural resource manager for San Luis Obispo who headed the

advisory committee writing a management plan with the BLM and its Carrizo

partners, the California Department of Fish and Game and The Nature


“It just unraveled, and we were not sure why,” Havlik said. “There must

have been some reason for the hiatus, but I do not know what it was.”

Havlik said the plan was 90 percent complete months before Braun, 46,

shot her two dogs, then herself.

The committee was nearly ready to go to public hearings. Havlik tried to

save the advisory committee from going extinct, writing letters to

then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton asking that the committee’s life be

extended so that it could finish its job.

The Interior Department said no, and on Dec. 31 the committee ceased to


Investigation completed

The first sign that life was being breathed back into the Carrizo’s

future came June 30, when the BLM tersely announced the committee was

being reconstituted, again with Havlik at its helm.

According to the BLM, the agency was ready to restart the planning

process because the Interior Department’s inspector general had wrapped

up the investigation of Braun’s death.

BLM spokesman John Dearing in Sacramento acknowledged in a telephone

interview this week that the “very tragic event” of Braun’s death had put

everything on hold.

What the inspector found or concluded about Braun’s death has not been

released. The Interior Department first said it would release only a

summary of its report Thursday, and then on Thursday said a reporter

would have to file for the document’s release under the federal Freedom

of Information Act, which can take days, weeks or months.

One significant change

Dearing said he could not comment on whether the report, presented to

BLM’s California director Mike Pool last month, contained recommendations

or findings or will result in any changes.

But in the third paragraph of a press release Wednesday, the BLM revealed

one significant change.

Braun, as well as many environmental groups, had been a strong believer

that whatever the final management plan decided, it should be subject to

a full environmental impact statement and not the less-thorough

environmental assessment the agency had been advocating.

Posthumously, Braun prevailed.

Pool said that the agency had decided to prepare a full environmental

statement, a decision he said was based on “public requests and our

interest in expanding public involvement in the planning process.”

In a telephone interview Thursday, Havlik said he was ecstatic the

planning process is resuming and believed it should be only a matter of

months before work on the management plan could be released for public


Havlik said he thinks the plan also will carry forward management

objectives for the Carrizo that Braun would have liked, saying “I want to

continue to honor her.”

“There needs to be some significant change at the monument,” Havlik said.

“Standards there are not state of the art, and grazing is one of the more

controversial issues.”

Irv McMillan, a close friend of Braun and a cattle rancher on a

1,350-acre spread in Shandon, said the Carrizo is one place where fewer

cattle belong so that indigenous wildlife such as the giant kangaroo rat

can firmly reestablish itself.

McMillan said Braun’s death has invigorated people like himself to hold

firm in protecting the Carrizo.

“People are not going to forget,” he said.

David Whitney covers Central Coast issues from the McClatchy Washington


Mc Mann
by Coloma Smith at 2006/07/31 22:29:13 GMT-6
I am looking for Jeff Mc Mann.Oner of Morning Star and Con Star.

Please give him my phone # 505-419-0169 .Thank you Coloma Smith

BLM Job Open
by Never Lose Hope in Justice at 2006/10/15 06:24:51 GMT-6
Word has it that Jim Abbott, the Associate State Director for California BLM, is retiring in December. His job has been advertised. He will probably go out with a golden handshake, but he will go out. He is the man responsible for upholding Marlene’s suspension, despite the ridiculous pretense on which the suspension was brought by Huntsinger in the first place. Abbott stood by while Huntsinger brow beat Marlene.

I hope (perhaps against hope) that someone with integrity will replace him, if that is even possible in this administration.

People with integrity, please apply! Heaven knows the State Office could use it. (I wonder if “henchman” and “hatchetman” are in the job description?)

Continue reading

Fault Lines from the Daily Kos

Fault Lines

Fri May 11, 2007 at 03:34:25 AM PST

I had begun to believe the GOP was never going to explain reality to George, and then came the breathless reports of Republican moderates finally putting their courage to the sticking place and telling Georgie-Porgie the truth. But, after six years of make-believe, I doubt the air-head in chief will surrender his fantasies that easily. Besides, too many have profited too much to let him wake up now. The sell-off of our government has gone too far and spread to deep for the greedy bastards to let go just because Republican politicians are facing retribution from voters: the no bid contracts that undermined our troops in Iraq, the cronyism that made Homeland Security a farce and left the citizens of New Orleans to fend for themselves, and the U.S. Attorney scandal. Common threads of ideologically excused incompetence and profiteering connect all these disasters. And the proof is a death on the Carrizo Plain.

The San Andreas Fault runs through central California like a zipper, and along the suture sits the Carrizo Plain. The Spanish name means a type of grass, and this is the last open grassland in California, sandwiched between low mountain ranges and occupied by a handful of dusty ranches.

But over the last twenty years of the 20th Century the Nature Conservancy, the California Sierra Club, The California Fish and Wildlife Service and the private ranchers, along with the Bureau of Lands and Mines, cobbled together their properties. They agreed to joint use and planning for The Plain, managed by the BLM. Then, in January of 2000, during his last hours in office, Bill Clinton designated it as the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The BLM is a “use” oriented agency,. As one rancher put it, “Basically, the BLM is in the livestock business.” As late as early 2000, BLM staffers were still referring to the “advantages” of allowing cattle to graze on Plain as the best way to control invasive non-native plants. But cattle, unlike the Tule Elk and the Pronghorn sheep they had displaced, are not merely eating the invaders but spreading their seeds. All of that changed when the new Manager of Monument was appointed in 2001.

Marlene Braun arrived with the zealotry of a convert. A 13 year employee at BLM, she was charged with re-ordering the priorities on The Plain, moving conservation and species protection to the top of the list. Over her first two years she carefully pulled together a consensus from the disparate groups that had a say and an interest on The Plain. The final plan required her to examine The Plain each spring to determine how many cattle that year’s gasses could support. It seemed common sense. Too little rain meant too little grass. And too much grazing might mean doom for already stressed native plants. But still, it angered some trying to find a profit from The Plain.

In March 2004 a new director took over the BLM office in Bakersfield, Ron Huntsinger, and like the replacements for the federal D.A.s, he was clearly sent to remove obstacles for friends of the administration. At an early staff meeting he announced, “I was brought in to fix this plan.” Step one in the fix was removing Marlene Braun from oversight and then “retooling” the plan. And when Huntsinger discovered that Marlene remained in contact with groups and individuals she had spent two years forging connections with, he threw a hissy fit. He literally screamed at Marlene. (This will sound familiar to anyone following the newly appointed D.A. in Minneapolis- St. Paul.)

Marlene later wrote of that first confrontation, “Ron told me I was ‘never, never’ to leak internal communications again..”. And when Marlene tried to explain her position, “He kept yelling, “Did you hear what I said?” Marlene wrote, “I felt like a bully had just beaten me up.” When he continued shouting at her at a second meeting on the next day Marlene wrote that everyone in the office could hear…” Marlene said she was so upset, she vomited.

Dan Rathbun, the man who recommended Ron Huntsinger for his job at Bakersfield described him as, “…the poster child for telling the boss what he/she wants to hear…” And he added, “You can only begin to imagine my horror as I watched him…curry favor of those political influences that he believed would help him…I regret my assistance in getting him his assignment there.”  A coworker wrote that Huntsinger “…embodies the term Personality Disorder.”  And Marlene would write that Huntsinger had made her life, “…utterly unbearable.”

Marlene was far from a saint, but she was a competent and dedicated manager and stubborn as hell. And at 46 she was not willing to change careers. She hung on and fought on through five written reprimands (previously her record was spotless), and denial of a two week medical leave she had requested. Also cancelled was the hearing Marlene had asked for to appeal her reprimand, and instead Ron Huntsinger  suspended her for five days without pay.

An aggressive, healthy, active individual, she lost 40 lbs. and was reduced in less than a year to depending on prescription tranquilizers and sleeping pills. At 9:10 AM, on May 2, 2005, Marlene sent an e-mail to the Bakersfield BLM office suggesting, among other things, that she wanted to donate her organs. She then walked into her front yard, executed her two dogs, covered them with a quilt and then shot herself in the head with a .38 blue steel revolver.

Ron Huntsinger was told of Marlene’s e-mail by 9:30, but did not call a BLM fire unit ten minutes from Marlene’s house. Instead he dispatched two staff members on the 90 minute drive from Bakersfield, along two lane roads to her home, in The Monument. At 10:28 they called ahead to notify the paramedics and the sheriff’s office in San Luis Obispo. Still, Marline was breathing when they arrived. A helicopter ambulance was dispatched to the wrong location, but after it finally lifted off, carrying Marlene, the two BLM staffers removed her laptop and desktop computers and her agency owned truck and returned them to the Bakersfield office. When Marlene finally reached the Marian Medical Center, she was DOA.

Suicide is a personal and selfish act, as evidenced by Marlene’s execution of her dogs. But a year long investigation by the Inspector General’s office into Marlene’s death found that, “BLM did not take action to resolve long-standing differences” between Huntsinger and Braun, “despite the availability of alternative dispute resolution methods.” This seems especially odd, since Huntsinger had served as an alternative dispute resolution adviser for the BLM in California.

The report also noted, “…a breakdown in trust, communication and cooperation …(which) adversely affected management of the Carrizo Plains.” And Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility wrote that, “Ron Huntsinger’s treatment of Marlene Braun could only be termed brutal. There is no doubt…that he is responsible for her death. The question…is whether this man should ever again be allowed to supervise another employee.”

Since May of 2005 there have been some resignations at the Bakersfield BLM office, and disciplinary actions have been taken against Managers, Supervisors and employees. But those are not subject to public notification. Ron Huntsinger has been transferred back to Washington, and is now the BLM’s science coordinator.

And on the Carrizo Plain, the BLM has re-started the entire process of forming a management plan, from scratch. Public hearings are being held, again, and the nine-member Carrizo Plain National Monument Advisory Committee has been re-appointed. And once this new initial plan is drawn up there will be more meetings, already scheduled for spring of 2008, to assess the environmental impact of the new proposed plan. There is no way of predicting what the political landscape will look by 2008, but whatever it is, clearly it will greatly influence decisions made about the last open grassland in California.

Johna Hurl is now the acting Monument Manager, while John Skibinski, the man Huntsinger picked to rework Marlene Braun’s plan, is the Assistant Office Field Manager. A Malibu oil company filed a notice of intent to drill wells within the Monument in 2004, but found nothing. And  despite having to compete with cattle, Marlene’s grazing plans brought the elk count up from 200 in the year 2000, to 237, and the Prong Horn from 24 to 85.

It remains only a question of time before the San Andreas Fault unzips itself again, and again splits open the Carrizo Plain.

The Healthy Workplace Bill: Marlene’s Law?

This is testimony submitted by Dr. Katherine Hermes, the Trustee of the Living Trust of Marlene A. Braun, to the Connecticut Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee in 2008.

Testimony provided at Senate Hearing, February 26, 2008

Katherine Hermes, J.D., Ph.D.

Connecticut State Coordinator

For the Workplace Bullying Institute


Trustee, the Living Trust of Marlene A. Braun

P.O. Box 1765

Torrington, CT 06790

Just a little more than two and a half years ago, the term “workplace bullying” meant nothing to me. I am a history professor with a law degree from Duke and a Ph.D from Yale. My best friend was a scientist who worked as the manager of a national monument. Her name is Marlene Braun, and she is the reason I am standing before you now.

On May 2, 2005, Marlene’s employer called me to tell me that was dead. I had no idea then what I came to know later: Marlene’s boss, who had bullied her, found out from an email she sent that she intended to commit suicide. He sent two men on a 2-hour drive to the remote monument. He did not call 911. When the men he sent called dispatch and got the U.S. Forest Service, the bully boss forbade the Forest Service to attend to Marlene because she might have a weapon. Indeed she did. She had used it to shoot herself. And she lay there for hours, still breathing, before anyone arrived. She shot herself at 9:30 and died at noon. In her suicide note to me, she said her boss had made her life “utterly unbearable.” He made her death pretty miserable too.

Marlene’s journal recounted the story of her bullying day by day, from the times in the office when he would scream at her, to the time he handed her a suspension out of the blue, the first black mark she had in a career of 13 years in government service, to the time he blocked her with his truck on a narrow road in the middle of nowhere and got out and physically threatened her, telling her she had “brought this” on herself.

Marlene, who had a rational and scientific mind, became confused, anxious, depressed. She lost 40 pounds in little over a year. When she asked for a medical leave, the first one she had ever asked for, and presented him with a doctor’s note, he told her the note was not good enough. She needed to fill out the long form, the one used for employees who abused the sick leave policy.

He saw what was happening to her and he did not care. Even when she was dying, he did not care.

This bully wanted Marlene destroyed and he succeeded. This man was not a jerk. He was not an inept boss. I am a historian and I do not know what a psychologist might diagnose him with. My diagnosis: He is the bully we are trying to stop today, the one who is maliciously harming the health of his employee by humiliating her, sabotaging her work, inflicting on her as much pain as he possibly can. Today Marlene’s bully still has a job with the same agency, because like many employers, his agency did not know what to do with him. So they promoted him up and out.

I tell you Marlene’s story, because it is the story of targets and bullies. Targets are frequently over-achievers who love their jobs and won’t leave them—and that makes them perfect targets. They will be in there for the long haul, the bully presumes. They exceed the bully in competence. The bully begins to isolate them from their peers and colleagues outside the system. I got a phone call from a young woman this morning who decided she was too fragile to testify. Everything I have told you about Marlene, even down to some of the particulars, is true of her situation also. I could tell you similar stories from every target who ever contacted me. Every single one of them just wants the bullying to stop. If it stopped this minute, you would not have a single lawsuit.

For targets, this bill is about sending a message that bullying will not be tolerated, hoping that employers forward that message across their workplaces. The law is necessary, because past experience tells us most employers won’t act on their own.

This law addresses a common problem which for years has had no name. It is a fair and just bill. It does not allow someone to sue a bad boss and it especially does not allow someone to sue a good boss. As someone with legal training but who is not a legal practitioner, and as someone who believes strongly in fairness, what impresses me about this bill is its equanimity. The threshold for plaintiffs is high: they have to prove the behavior of their bully was malicious and they have to show it harmed their health. This is a hurdle that is high, but it will provide redress for targets. There is an affirmative defense for employers. If they have acted in good faith to stop the bullying, they are not liable for what the bully does.

This legislation is the impetus for the creation of better workplaces all across Connecticut. When bullying stops, people can get down to work. Businesses can be productive. Work life can get less stressful and more rewarding. My friend Marlene thought the best job she ever had was working at the monument. She never stopped loving her work. She would have been happy to do it for many more years to come, until life itself became so unbearable. Because of a bully she couldn’t imagine returning to work, or even spending another day on earth.

Thank you for your consideration.

Bush’s War on Civil Servants: Marlene Braun

November 28, 2005

Bush’s War On Civil Servants

Nick Turse has been putting together a list of those who have resigned or lost their job under the Bush administration because they disagreed with or refused to carry out a bankrupt Bush policy. Soon, he and Tom Englehardt plan to have an online Wall to honor those who have tried to stop the onslaught.

Here’s the story of one who found the battle with the Bush administration more than she could bear:

Marlene Braun: A 13-year veteran of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), she was appointed manager of Carrizo Plain National Monument — 250,000 acres of native grasses and Native American sacred sites, located about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Once the Bush administration came to power, the BLM, under Interior Secretary Gale Norton, “began crafting a grazing policy that lifted protections for wildlife and habitat across 161 million acres of public lands in the West, including the Carrizo.” In an August 2005 article, the Los Angeles Times wrote, that Braun “was torn between the demands of a new boss who she felt favored the region’s ranchers, and conservation policies adopted nearly a decade ago to protecting the austere swath of prairie she shared with pronghorn antelope and peregrine falcons, the California condor and the California jewelflower.” That boss, said Braun, stripped her of “almost all my influence on the Plain,” transferring it to those she deemed to be “pro-grazing.” She repeatedly clashed with him and wrote to colleagues, “I … can’t keep fighting indefinitely, I don’t think… [but m]aybe fighting is better than capitulating…. The Carrizo could lose a lot if I give up…. But hell, you only live, and die, once!!!!” When Braun contacted other officials at the Department of Fish and Game as well as the Nature Conservancy about “several public misstatements she believed [her boss] had made about federal grazing law,” he found out and suspended her. Braun appealed the suspension, but on February 15, 2005, her appeal was denied. Braun remained in touch with Bureau of Land Management officials concerning issues related to management of the Carrizo Plain and was repeatedly reprimanded for it. As a result, she told friends, she was certain she would be fired from the Bureau. Braun forwarded the disciplinary memos she continued to receive to officials at the Department of Fish and Game and the Nature Conservancy. She wrote, “I will no longer be participating in this mess…. I will not take being treated like a whipping girl…” The next day she put a .38 caliber pistol to her head and pulled the trigger. Committed Suicide, May 2, 2005.

The Carrizo Plain is an incredible, but very fragile area in central California – the last natural home of the California Kit Fox, wintering Sand Hill Cranes, and native California prairie grass. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised that the Bush Interior Department would decide that it must be destroyed.

Go read and reflect on the rest of the people Nick has added to his list. It will be a very long list of those who spent decades trying to protect and serve the citizens of the United States but found that the Mogol hordes that have taken over our government are only interested in looting and trashing the place.

Posted by Mary at November 28, 2005 01:00 AM

BLM Biologist Exposes Inside View Of Agency Priorities

This is a view expressed by another employee of the BLM, written up by Todd Wilkinson, published in New West.

BLM Biologist Exposes Inside View Of Agency Priorities

By Todd Wilkinson, 3-02-06

I often say to friends when they quiz me about details in a story I’ve written: Ninety-percent of what I actually know does not find its way into print. Leaving out information may be due to space limitations in the newspaper or magazine. It might be because the stuff I’ve learned is tangential or only slightly relevant to the angle of the story.

Or, as was the case with veteran Bureau of Land Management field biologist Steve Belinda, it might be because I’ve made a promise that I’ll be discreet about the opinions offered or the background information shared.A year ago last spring, I wrote a series of articles for The Christian Science Monitor about the energy boom in the West. The stories were focused on the gas drilling frenzy occurring in and around Pinedale, Wyoming. For the good part of a day, Belinda took me on a tour. We visited the Pinedale Anticline where gas production is about to dramatically increase and we talked about the precedent being set in the Jonah Field to the south.

These wide treeless expanses of high desert, covered with sagebrush, form ground zero in the national discussion about the Bush Administration’s national energy policy. “We’ve got a world-class gas play occurring in the same landscape that is home to world-class populations of wildlife,” Belinda told me of the 100,000 pronghorn (antelope), elk, deer, moose and other species that converge there. “I think can have both without sacrificing one for the other.”

Belinda was parroting what the BLM told him to say. I knew it. And I respected the tough spot he was in. Privately, he was seriously concerned about the way his agency was addressing the pace, scale and impacts of gas drilling, an activity that is generating billions of dollars.

“Come back to me in a year and let’s see if anything has changed,” he said once we shook hands and headed in different directions. Less than a year has passed but Mr. Belinda is gone from his job.

As the Washington Post reported, Belinda out of protest recently resigned from the agency to take a job with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Now he can do something he couldn’t do with the BLM: Speak candidly without fear of retaliation and seriously monitor the effects of gas drilling on wildlife.

The fact is he took pride in working for the federal government and would have stayed if he had been allowed to do his job.

The 37-year-old Mr. Belinda had signed up for a tour of duty in the BLM’s Pinedale Field Office in 2004 because he thought he could make a positive difference as two titanic forces of environment and full-field energy development converged. His wife was from Wyoming and her roots were calling her home. As a hunter and angler, he also was drawn to the abundance of wildlife in the state. The natural beauty, formed by the Wind River Mountains rising above the Upper Green River Valley to the east, and the presence of big game and good fishing in the area, are one reason why some of the senior advisors to President George Herbert Walker Bush, the current president’s father, bought ranches in the area, along with tycoons who made big money in the private sector.

Professionally, Belinda had a unique perspective when he arrived in Pinedale. For years, he had worked for the BLM in southern New Mexico, helping to manage gas leasing that had swept across the Permian Basin. “If only we could go back in time and apply the knowledge that we have today about impacts, things might be different there,” he told me as we cruised across the Anticline in his pick-up truck in 2005. “But over the decades, because of our own ignorance, opportunities were squandered in the Permian. I hope the same thing doesn’t happen here.”

Thousands of wells, tens of thousands of miles of pipeline and roads, and stubbles of compressor station nodes, are now proliferating in western Wyoming. It’s a veritable bonanza, filling the state coffers with a lottery strike of fiscal richness but causing even the most enthused to wonder what will be left when the gas play ends in a couple of decades.

What gets printed in a newspaper often doesn’t tell the whole story. Inside the BLM offices in Pinedale, away from public earshot, Belinda has been raising concerns about wildlife, air and water quality in the face of incredible political pressure to place priority on upping the well count and maximizing the volume of gas produced. When a reader of the Monitor called me demanding that I show him proof that any harm was occurring to the ecosystem, I couldn’t reveal what I was hearing from Belinda.

Ironically, the most intense pressure wasn’t coming from industry but from his own BLM superiors. Ironically, he told me last year, the oil and gas industry has a greater interest in being more sensitive on the land, and a willingness to modify its projects to accommodate wildlife, than the BLM does. Who’s calling the shots for the agency isn’t clear.

Who’s telling subordinate managers down the chain of command to get the gas out, the same way that Forest Service bosses of old ordered their underlings to get the timber cut out in the face of environmental degradation, isn’t known. At least not yet, but someday it will be.

As a biologist under the employ of the federal government working on behalf of citizens, raising red flags about wildlife — that is, if something doesn’t seem right — was Belinda’s job. But over and over, he was rebuffed by his superiors who tried to alienate him as being a non-team player. Playing on the BLM team today apparently means that the notion of multiple use of public lands, which means recognizing the need to balance development with the legal mandate of also protecting the natural assets of the land over the long term, has been placed on the back burner.

It was pathetic, Belinda said, that the BLM had turned its own few biologists into paper pushers, pulled them from the field and ordered them to help process as many drilling permits as possible. He would’ve rather been out monitoring the animals that he was trained to steward. Instead of having BLM biologists doing the work, the agency has contracted the work out, in conjunction with the gas companies, to produce reports.

“The BLM is pushing the biologists to be what I call ‘biostitutes,’ rather than allow them to be experts in the wildlife they are supposed to be managing,'” he told Post reporter Blaine Harden.

Despite BLM state director Bob Bennett’s insistence in Harden’s story that his agency is “doing our level best to deal with the impacts,” Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal is among many who doesn’t buy it. What could have been the model for doing development right could ultimately disgrace the BLM as an example of doing it wrong.

On behalf of the public, some say, our elected officials should demand a real investigation. Take an honest look at agency budget and staff priorities. Interview biologists who are now afraid to speak up, like Belinda was, for fear of losing their jobs. Talk to independent biologists who have chronicled impacts from energy development on pronghorn, sage grouse and mule deer.

Most of all, they could glean all the insight they can from Steve Belinda and the other Steve Belindas still working for the agency. Already, a report from the federal Government Accountability Office has chronicled the BLM’s single-minded focus on accommodating energy development over other things like wildlife and air quality. But it shouldn’t stop there. Wyoming’s Congressional Delegation could call for additional independent and objective review from GAO, from the Congressional Research Service and the National Academy of Sciences.

Growing evidence to the contrary raises doubts about claims from the BLM that it is doing its best, on behalf of the American people, to ensure responsible stewardship.

Best wishes in your new endeavor, Steve Belinda. I’m sure some of your former colleagues are glad you’re gone because you raised questions they didn’t want to answer. You were the kind of conscientious civil servant we need working in government.

Oil exploration firm looks at nature preserve

Oil exploration firm looks at nature preserve

With crude at $100, there’s more pressure than ever for seismic testing on San Luis Obispo grassland



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Published: Sunday, Mar. 02, 2008 | Page 4A

WASHINGTON – The fight over cattle grazing at Carrizo Plain National Monument is nearing an end.

But controversy over oil and gas exploration on the 250,000-acre grasslands preserve is just beginning to raise new concerns about protecting its endangered species.

Vintage Production, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, owns 30,000 acres of mineral rights in the heart of the monument’s valley floor in Eastern San Luis Obispo County.

With oil now topping $100 a barrel, Vintage has notified the Bureau of Land Management that it wants to find out what’s there.

Vintage’s holdings are under the heart of the monument grounds, which contain some of the last vestiges of San Joaquin Valley grasslands. It’s also home to many endangered species – including the kangaroo rat, which lives in the ground Vintage wants to explore.

John Dearing, a BLM spokesman, said the agency can’t stop any exploration because the company’s mineral rights predate former President Clinton’s creation of the monument in early 2001.

“Because this is a national monument, there will be environmental concerns that will have to be strongly looked at,” Dearing said. “But they have a right to access.”

The monument is not virgin territory for drilling rigs. It’s just over a hill from Kern County’s oil fields, and there is a small amount of production in the monument’s remote canyons.

The exploration proposal, which Dearing said has yet to be submitted to the BLM, is dividing environmentalists.

“Oil drilling is not going to occur on the Carrizo Plain National Monument without a huge battle,” said Pat Veesart, a former member of the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission and a board member of Los Padres ForestWatch.

“If anyone wants to drill for oil there, they had better be prepared to go to war over it,” Veesart said.

Others see an opportunity, noting that – at least initially – no holes would be bored into the ground.

Seismic testing will determine whether there is oil and gas in Vintage’s holdings, and that in turn could set a value for the mineral estate.

With such a value established, the BLM could begin negotiations to trade other oil rights for Vintage’s monument property or open talks with the BLM’s monument partners – the state Department of Fish and Game and The Nature Conservancy – for an outright purchase.

“If they had a show, it might let us get our heads together for a trade out,” said Tom Maloney, the conservancy’s San Luis Obispo County project manager. “It’s just exploration now and not development.”

Alice Bond of The Wilderness Society agreed that testing may be worth the risk if it leads to a buyout of Vintage’s drilling rights. About 130,000 acres of the monument’s mineral rights are privately owned.

“It would be good if we could start moving forward to a purchase of those,” Bond said.

Since the monument’s creation, it has been a battleground over cattle grazing. The monument’s former manager, Marlene Braun, committed suicide during the height of those tensions, believing she had been sidelined by her superiors seeking to protect grazing rights despite the area’s new mission of species protection.

Neil Havlik, the city of San Luis Obispo’s natural resources manager and chairman of the advisory committee, said the BLM’s approach to monument grazing has changed greatly since Braun’s death.

“What impressed everyone is that the BLM, the Department of Fish and Game and The Nature Conservancy staff are all on the same wavelength now,” Havlik said.

According to the draft management plan, Havlik said, the needs of native wildlife in the monument would largely determine where and when grazing occurs.

“This is a major breakthrough,” he said. “This says that the needs of native animals will direct the vegetation program.”

But with oil exploration, native fauna like the kangaroo rat could face new risks. Vintage would use huge trucks thumping the ground to send shock waves deep into the subsurface, using sensitive electronic equipment to outline formations and measure production potential.

According to Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, which fought seismic exploration on BLM land in Wyoming, the thumper trucks can be especially hard on burrowing animals such as the kangaroo rat. He cited a BLM study showing that the population of white tail prairie dogs dropped after trucks tested an area.

“It is certainly a major industrial undertaking,” he said. “And if something is found, it can lead to a major influx of drilling rigs and bulldozers.”