Emory leaves Acadia panel over disclosure requirement

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Long-time Acadia Advisory Commission member Ben Emory of Bar Harbor has resigned from the commission, saying the new requirement to file a detailed federal financial disclosure report would be too “onerous” and time-consuming.

Emory is one of only three of the 16 commission members who, as of this year, were required to submit the report. That is because he and the other two, Ken Cline and Bruce Wiersma, were appointed as “at large” members by the secretary of the Department of the Interior.

The Advisory Commission was created by Congress in 1986 and was reauthorized as part of the Acadia boundary bill that passed Congress and was signed into law earlier this year. The commission has no decision-making powers. Its function is to serve as a liaison between park officials and surrounding communities and to offer advice on park operations and projects.

Commission members serve three-year terms. Emory joined the commission in 1996 after being appointed by Gov. Angus King. He was subsequently reappointed by Gov. John Baldacci. He was off the commission for about four years after Gov. Paul LePage named someone else to the seat. But three years ago, when a Department of the Interior at-large seat came open, Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider recommended that Emory be appointed.

On May 24, Emory received an email from Margaret Bradley, associate ethics counselor with the National Park Service, informing him that because he had not filed his financial disclosure report, he could not participate in the June 3 meeting of the Acadia Advisory Commission.

That same day, Emory sent an email to Schneider and his fellow commission members informing them of his resignation.

“Filling out the extraordinarily detailed federal financial disclosure form is just not worth the time it would take and the outside assistance I would require for [this] volunteer position,” he wrote. “If this onerous form related to a paid job I wanted or even some national volunteer position of great importance, I would do it.

“I have explained to some of you that although I am not some super wealthy person, my financial situation is complicated enough that providing the requested information would be a major chore and would be difficult without requesting help from two out-of-state sources,” Emory continued. “I simply have too much else going on in life now to address myself to this.

“I will continue to be a great enthusiast for all that Acadia stands for, for the outstanding people who work for the park and for the many dedicated volunteers who have been my colleagues on the commission.”

In a post-script to his email, Emory wrote: “I cannot help but say that it seems sadly ironic that the Dept. of the Interior is imposing this requirement on volunteers to the commission when the highest levels of the executive branch of our federal government are so rife with conflicts of interest, outrageous behavior and refusals to be transparent about their own personal financial resources – and getting away with such.”

According to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, the purpose of the financial disclosure report is “to assist employees and their agencies in avoiding conflicts between official duties and private financial interests or affiliations.”

Members of the Acadia Advisory Commission are not “employees.” They are volunteers who receive no compensation.

The commission passed a resolution at its June 3 meeting thanking Emory for his service.

“His extensive background in land conservation is unparalleled, and he has maintained his expertise in leadership roles on countless relevant boards that successfully contributed to the preservation of thousands of acres of Maine lands for generations to come,” the resolution reads.

“We recognize Ben’s accomplishments both as a member of the Advisory Commission and in his personal pursuits.”

In 1971, Emory became an original member of the staff of Maine Coast Heritage Trust. He served as its executive director from 1976-1982. On the national scene, Emory was co-founder and later executive director of the Land Trust Exchange, which is now the Land Trust Alliance.

As a member of the Acadia Advisory Commission, Emory worked closely with three park superintendents, Paul Haertel, Sheridan Steele and Schneider.

“All three of them have been outstanding superintendents, and it was a real pleasure to work with them,” he told the Islander. “I will miss working with Kevin in this manner.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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