Gettysburg chief reassigned over explicit images

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park told a newspaper he is being reassigned because U.S. Interior Department investigators discovered that he used his federal computer to view sexually explicit images.

John Latschar will begin Monday at the Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Md., as a special assistant to the National Park Service’s associate director for cultural resources.

Park service spokesman David Barna would not say why Latschar had been reassigned, calling it a personnel issue, but Latschar told the Evening Sun of Hanover he is being reassigned because of his misuse of the federal computer.

Latschar told the newspaper that "there’s no excuse" for his behavior. He said he was "going through some rough personal and professional times" from 2004 to 2006, when he used his computer to search online for the images, which he said were like those found in a Playboy magazine.

Latschar didn’t immediately return a message left by The Associated Press at his Gettysburg park office. Latschar, in an e-mail to park employees obtained by the AP, apologized but did not mention the images.

"As I say goodbye to all you good folks, I would like, once again, to offer you my heartfelt apologies for what has happened," Latschar wrote. "My greatest sorrow is the embarrassment I have brought upon my family, my friends, and you — my former employees — of whom I have always been so proud."

In his new job, Latschar will make the same $145,000 a year salary as he did while running the 6,000-acre historical Civil War site, Barna said.

Latschar began working at the park in south-central Pennsylvania in 1994 and clashed repeatedly with preservationists.

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General investigated anonymous allegations that Latschar had committed misconduct and engaged in criminal activity during his stewardship, but said last month that it had found no evidence to back up the accusations.

The Washington Post reported Monday, however, that the inspector general’s public account did not mention another finding: that investigators found that Latschar used his computer to view thousands of sexually explicit images.

Mary L. Kendall, the department’s acting inspector general, declined to say why the discovery of the images was left out of the report, the Post reported.

The park was the scene of a bloody three-day battle in July 1863, a major turning point of the Civil War that hastened the defeat of the Confederate Army. It now draws more than 1.4 million visitors a year.

In recent years, the park also has been the center of hot debates involving its preservation and nearby development.

Investigators looked into claims of fraud in connection with the park’s new $103 million museum and visitors’ center, built and operated by the private, nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation. The inspector general’s report acknowledged that the agreement between the park and the foundation makes for a controversial partnership, but it said investigators uncovered no evidence of fraud.

It also detailed how Latschar had agreed last year to take the $245,000-a-year job as the foundation’s president. Latschar subsequently changed his mind after meeting with federal ethics officials.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press.

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By |2009-10-27T13:40:24+00:00October 27th, 2009|News|Comments Off on News 1468