Greg Wozniak, park ranger supervisor

Greg Wozniak, Pisgah District Ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway, has been relieved of law enforcement duties since July 2018.

ASHEVILLE — A rare National Park Service Board of Inquiry, convened to investigate serious misconduct by agency employees, recommended that a Blue Ridge Parkway supervisory ranger should have his law enforcement commission permanently revoked.

The investigation of Greg Wozniak, 46, District Ranger for the parkway’s Pisgah District, which includes the Asheville corridor, was completed March 15. The report was released Sept. 17 to the Citizen Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from six months earlier.

The board of inquiry stemmed from Wozniak’s arrest on drug possession charges June 12, 2018, in Knoxville, Tennessee, while he was off duty.

Although the arrest was expunged from his record, Wozniak’s supervisors found the incident to be serious enough to warrant immediate suspension of his law enforcement duties, according to the documents.

However, Blue Ridge Parkway Chief Ranger Neal Labrie told the Citizen Times on Sept. 18 that he could not comment on whether Wozniak’s commission had actually been revoked. He said Wozniak continues to work on the parkway in a non-law enforcement capacity, performing administrative and maintenance functions, including cleaning up and reorganizing the firearms range and performing road safety audits.

According to official documents, Wozniak's annual salary is $88,050.

Labrie said Wozniak will maintain that salary while he retains the job title description for Pisgah District ranger. Two different district rangers have been performing his law enforcement and supervisory functions since June 2018.

Agreement with Board of Inquiry findings

According to emails also requested through FOIA, Labrie and Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee both agreed with the Board of Inquiry’s findings and moved ahead with paperwork to have Wozniak’s law enforcement commission revoked.

“Federal employees have a right to due process, and there’s no timeline to that," Labrie said. "That process has to work through several level and procedures,” which could include appeals.

Wozniak did not respond to a reporter’s question on whether he had filed an appeal.

Labrie ordered a temporary suspension of Wozniak’s law enforcement commission the day after his arrest and also sought an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, which performs internal investigations.

Wozniak, who has worked at the parkway since 2014 and has been a permanent law enforcement ranger at several national park sites across the country since 1996, has been assigned to desk duty since the June 2018 incident.

Wozniak, who worked in Great Smoky Mountains National Park from 2001-09, had been in charge of all law enforcement, visitor protection, and search and rescue operations along the parkway’s Pisgah District, which runs from Milepost 305 at the U.S. 221 entrance in Linville to the parkway’s southern terminus in Cherokee.

The district includes one of the busiest stretches of the scenic roadway through Asheville, north to Craggy Gardens and south to the Mount Pisgah area.

There are 28 law enforcement rangers, including supervisors, charged with patrolling the 469 miles of parkway, which is the second-most visited unit in the National Park Service with 14.7 million visitors in 2018.

Drinking and doing drugs with friends

According to the OPR report, which was conducted a month after Wozniak’s arrest, on the night of June 12, 2018, Wozniak collided with another vehicle near the I-40 on-ramp on North Hall of Fame Drive in Knoxville. Both vehicles were totaled and needed to be towed.

There were no other witnesses to the crash, and both drivers claimed they had the right of way, the report states, and Wozniak “had been drinking” although no blood-alcohol test was taken by Officer Trisha Ward of the Knoxville Police Department, who investigated.

Wozniak was arrested on two counts of simple possession/casual exchange. The arrest report shows he was jailed on $1,000 bail. Criminal charges were dropped on July 20, 2018, and the arrest was expunged from his record. Repeated calls to the Knoxville Police Department asking why the arrest was expunged, or erased, were not returned.

The NPS Office of Professional Responsibility report says that in a voluntary interview on July 12, 2018, Wozniak admitted to smoking marijuana earlier in the evening of June 12, 2018, and purchasing the marijuana and illegal mushrooms in a parking lot, from a friend of a friend, whom he had never met before.

He also admitted that after the two-vehicle accident, he threw the drugs, which were in a tackle box, “over the guardrail into the bushes” when he panicked. The driver with whom he collided witnessed Wozniak disposing of the tackle box and told the police. They retrieved it and found inside 10.1 grams of marijuana, 6.1 grams of mushrooms and six THC gummy edibles, according to the arrest report.

Wozniak also claimed to not have used any illegal drugs “probably since college,” which was “25 years ago.”

Wozniak said he also had been drinking with his friend that night. The Knoxville Police Department crash report, written by Ward, states he had been drinking but no field sobriety tests were taken.

Knoxville PD did not respond to a request for explanation of why no blood-alcohol tests were administered.

Wozniak did not appear to have had any drug test until June 25, 2018, nearly two weeks after his arrest. Those tests came back negative for illegal drugs.

When asked by the investigator if he immediately showed his National Park Service law enforcement badge to the police officers on scene, Wozniak said he did not. He said he didn’t mention he was a law enforcement officer until he was in custody.

The OPR report, completed in August 2018, found that Wozniak violated the Department of the Interior's Code of Conduct with his arrest on drug charges.

Once the OPR report was completed, the park requested a Board of Inquiry through the National Park Service Washington Office. A Board of Inquiry is convened to make recommendations relating to whether a commissioned employee should be allowed to maintain an NPS law enforcement commission.

What the Board of Inquiry found

The Board of Inquiry was convened March 6 in Washington, D.C.

According to Kathy Kupper, National Park Service spokeswoman in Washington, there are fewer than 10 boards of inquiry convened each year.

The BOI was composed of five members, including members of the U.S. Park Police, a national park superintendent from Virginia, an NPS security chief and a human resources specialist.

The report found Wozniak violated federal law in the use of illegal drugs, violated the executive order on a drug-free workplace and also failed to comply with the tenets of the law enforcement code of conduct.

The report noted some other aspects of Wozniak’s case, including:

“When Ranger Wozniak requested to purchase drugs from his friend’s dealer, his friend, without hesitation, agreed to set up a drug deal. Question: ‘He didn’t hesitate at all that you’re federal law enforcement?’ Answer: ‘Nah, I think we’ve just been friends for a while.’”

“Ranger Wozniak conducted a drug deal in a parking lot with an individual he had just met. Ranger Wozniak purchased approximately 10 grams of marijuana, 6 grams of mushrooms and 6 edible THC gummies.”

The report states that these facts were “inexcusable for a law enforcement officer. The Board found the explanations given by Ranger Wozniak on how he first used marijuana with his friend, how the drug transaction occurred, and his lack of a plan on how to use the drugs problematic. The Board also struggled with Ranger Wozniak’s decision to attempt to hide the drugs from law enforcement prior to their arrival at his motor vehicle crash.”

The report also found it “troubling” that Wozniak went from using marijuana with a friend of 15 years, who he claimed had never used drugs, to purchasing drugs from his friend’s dealer. In the OPR investigation, Wozniak claimed he had not used drugs since college, more than 20 years earlier.

“It was the Board’s opinion that Ranger Wozniak’s actions violated the code of conduct and impaired the efficiency of the National Park Service by irrevocably damaging his ability to enforce laws and regulations,” the report stated.

The parkway’s Labrie said he could not say that these findings would necessarily preclude Wozniak from holding a non-law enforcement position with the National Park Service.

“Speaking in general applicability, anyone that commits a federal or state crime, the commission of those crimes and or outcomes of the judgments would not be per se reasons for removal or the inability to have a job at some level at some time,” Labrie said. “That’s for Office of Personnel Management to determine. They’re not necessarily a screen-out.”

Labrie said that Ranger Chuck Hester has been serving in an acting position as the Pisgah District ranger and will do so for the “next couple of weeks.”

After that, he said he is not committed to paying for another acting district ranger, and Wozniak’s responsibilities will be distributed among other district rangers and the deputy chief ranger, Debra Flowers.

“Our work in the field remains committed to the mission we signed up for. Individual changes or lapses in staffing or incidents that occur to individual officers or rangers do not reflect or address any changes to the work we do each day,” Labrie said when questioned if the public should be wary of the park’s law enforcement operation.

“They remain committed to the mission and continue to doing an outstanding job.”

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