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Arizona Memorial worker improperly took gifts from tour firms, inquiry finds

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A National Park Service employee at the USS Arizona Memorial had improperly accepted gifts from tour operators, according to U.S. Department of Interior investigators. Visitors and special guests commemorated the 68th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor during a ceremony at the memorial.

A National Park Service employee at the USS Arizona Memorial accepted gifts from tour operators in violation of ethics regulations, U.S. Department of Interior investigators said Wednesday.

The gifts included a $50 jacket and golf course green fees valued at about $85, the department’s inspector general said in a three-paragraph summary of its report on the case.

Investigators didn’t release their full report for privacy reasons and because it contained law enforcement information.

The report says the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hawaii declined to prosecute.

Investigators launched their probe after hearing a Park Service employee may have had improper relationships with tour operators to whom he distributed memorial tickets. The report didn’t identify the employee or say when he received the gifts.

The memorial straddles the USS Arizona, which sank in Pearl Harbor during the 1941 Japanese bombing. It is a gravesite for more than 900 sailors and Marines killed on the battleship.

Boats carry visitors to the memorial from a visitor center on shore. Demand often exceeds the 4,350 boat tickets available each day. About 1.8 million people visit Pearl Harbor every year.

The inspector general’s findings came nearly four years after an internal National Park Service report said tour companies sold tickets with the knowledge of park officials even though tickets are supposed to be free.

Andrew Munoz, a spokesman for the National Park Service’s Pacific West region, said the agency now makes sure a team, and not just one person, controls ticketing for the memorial. The agency also requires its employees at the site to undergo annual ethics training. Tour companies must also follow stricter rules governing the use of tickets.

He said the Park Service is reviewing the inspector general office’s findings to determine if further action is warranted.

The September 2013 internal Park Service report said employees gave walk-in tickets intended for independent visitors to commercial tour companies, which then sold them.

Tickets were also given to Pacific Historic Parks, a nonprofit that runs a gift shop and raises money for the memorial. The organization gave some to people spending $7 to rent an audio tour from the nonprofit, and gave others to companies that would lead clients to the audio tours.

There were rarely enough tickets for independent visitors while this was going on.

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