Barry Myers, the nominee to be the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), led a company, AccuWeather, that had a culture of “rampant sexual harassment and retaliation” against women, including “groping, touching and kissing of subordinates without consent,” according to a report by the government’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the investigation report and made public last week its findings that “AccuWeather, under Myers, fostered a culture ripe for sexual harassment, turned a blind eye to allegations of egregious conduct and retaliated against those who complained.” President Trump nominated Myers, then CEO of AccuWeather, to be the Administrator of NOAA in 2017, but his nomination was held up for two years over allegations of conflict of interest because of the “overlap” of services between Accuweather and the National Weather Service.
- According to The Post, Myers has been a “determined force” behind efforts to persuade Congress to cut back on services that NOAA’s National Weather Service provides free of charge to the public because they are the same as services provided by AccuWeather and other private weather firms.
- At the same time, Myers allegedly lobbied the government to give AccuWeather expanded access to weather-related data — all of which would have been free of charge to the company to use to make a profit.
- The Post also reported that Myers “opposed such initiatives as the expanded use of social media by the National Weather Service to spread tornado and other severe weather alerts, saying the agency should focus on core services such as data collection and modeling.”
- Eventually, Myers stepped down and agreed to eliminate the conflict of interest by divesting himself of any company ownership in order to comply with the ethics pledge required by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
The Senate Commerce Committee approved Myers’ nomination on a party-line vote on April 3, which it has done 3 times in the past, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell has never scheduled a floor vote on Myers. Earlier this year The Post reported the fact that AccuWeather had paid $290,000 to settle sexual harassment claims, but the new leaked investigation details the extent of the culture of harassment and retaliation against women in the company. It is unclear whether Myers will get a vote when the Senate returns from its Easter recess.
Why This Matters: NOAA is a key government agency, that provides crucial services to the American public every day. There is no need to press ahead with a nomination as burdened by scandal as this one. All employees in the agency deserve better — but particularly its outstanding women. These latest allegations of egregious sexual harassment at AccuWeather are not frivolous or unsubstantiated. There are plenty of other qualified potential nominees and the Trump Administration should withdraw Myers and find someone who is not tarnished by the specter of conflicts of interest and gender bias.
April 16, 2019 » AccuWeather, conflict of interest, groping, National Weather Service, NOAA, retaliation, sexual harassment