NOAA orders changes in top Keys leadership

Three top executives of the National Marine Sanctuaries program in the Florida Keys have been given new positions following a nine-month inquiry into management dysfunction.

An investigation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent agency of the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, was launched in July 2016 after allegations were made of a hostile work environment by unnamed staff in the Keys.

Some financial audits also took place. Findings of that report have not been released but the permanent changes were announced this week.

Sean Morton, who served as superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for nearly a decade, from 2007 to July 2016, will be reassigned to NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal and Ocean Science. Morton will be based in Charleston, S.C.

Former Deputy Superintendent Mary Tagliareni, an Upper Keys resident for more than a quarter century, will take a position at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Michigan, where she will “support critical operational and administrative activities.”

Tagliareni headed the Upper Keys office of the Keys sanctuary before being relieved in 2016. A former state marine enforcement officer, Tagliareni was named the National Ocean Service’s employee of the year in 2006 for her work on the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, the sanctuary’s headquarters in Key West.

Billy Causey, a Lower Keys resident who was named the first superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary after serving as the Looe Key sanctuary manager, also will change jobs. Most recently Causey was regional sanctuaries director for the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean.

He now has taken a post with the National Marine Protected Areas Center within the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. He will remain in the Keys. Causey helped establish some of the first marine protected areas in U.S. oceanic waters.

Causey’s regional position now has been moved to the management portfolio of Reed Bohne, currently the regional director for Northeast and Great Lakes sanctuaries.

The managers could not be reached at press time.

Since the investigation started, Ed Lindelof has served as acting superintendent of the Keys sanctuary, with Lisa Symons as acting deputy director in the Upper Keys. They will remain in those positions on an interim basis “until the positions are permanently filled,” said Chris Vaccaro, acting deputy director of NOAA Communications.

Lindelof’s long history with NOAA dates back to the creation of the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary in the Lower Keys in 1981.

Symons regularly works as the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ coordinator for damage assessment and resource protection, including seagrass and coral groundings.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206