From Profound Conflicts of Interest to a Blind Eye for Harassment, Barry Myers Is the Wrong Choice for NOAA

April 24, 2019 | 9:19 am
Photo: C-SPAN
Andrew Rosenberg
Former Contributor

When the founder and CEO of AccuWeather was nominated by President Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it immediately raised serious concerns from me and many others. After all, Myers is not a scientist but will be leading a major science agency. His business, AccuWeather, is essentially built around the re-processing, re-packaging, and marketing of the weather data developed and routinely produced at public expense by NOAA. Therefore, much of the work of NOAA in scientific research, data collection, and forecasting of weather, climate, and severe storms directly impacts AccuWeather, which relies on those agency efforts for their business. That is the very definition of a conflict of interest for the putative NOAA administrator.

I worked at NOAA for 10 years as a scientist and a senior manager. It is a great agency that does outstanding science and provides vital services for the nation—weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, tsunami warnings, oceanography, climate science, charting, coastal management and marine resource management including fisheries, marine mammals, and endangered species and habitat. NOAA’s work on behalf of the public is deeply science-based.  Many companies utilize NOAA data (not just weather data), which makes the agency’s work critical to the nation’s economy as well as public health and safety.

Myers was first nominated way back in October 2017 and it has apparently taken nearly two years for Myers to come up with a way to try to address his conflicts of interest. His solution? Sell his shares in the family company to other family members at a reduced price. With a provision to buy them back when he leaves government. In other words, Myers and the White House believe that he can manage a large federal agency that is the basis of his family business by pretending that he doesn’t care about what his brothers, wife, and other relatives earn. And then at the end of his tenure at NOAA he can buy back the shares, again at a reduced price, and share in the earnings. Somehow in his view that’s not a conflict of interest? Right.

I for one am NOT comfortable that Myers will make decisions as the head of NOAA that will solely benefit the public and not his business and his family.  How about you?

As if that weren’t enough to halt all further consideration of Mr. Myers to lead NOAA, it gets worse. Recent reporting has revealed that even before the nomination went to the Senate back in 2017, the Department of Labor opened an investigation into allegations of “widespread sexual harassment” at Accuweather.  And that Myer’s company was aware of the harassment while he was CEO, and took no action for a long period of time. The report of that investigation was available more than a year ago to the administration, even though it was only revealed by the press to the public this month. Still, the White House re-nominated Myers in January of this year.

So, let’s review. Barry Myers is not a scientist. He would have deep and unresolved conflicts of interest if he were to lead NOAA. He is touted as an experienced manager as his primary qualification, but as a manager he led a company that fostered a culture of sexual harassment and workplace hostility.

Myers’ nomination is now approaching a vote on the Senate floor to confirm him for the position. NOAA and the nation don’t deserve an unqualified and conflicted nominee that turns a blind eye to sexual harassment. Under no circumstances should he be confirmed. Tell your senators: Myers? NO for NOAA!