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Wozniak no longer Pisgah District Ranger

Greg Wozniak appears in a 2009 photograph published in The Saratogan following his selection as chief ranger of Saratoga National Historical Park in New York, previous to his tenure on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo courtesy The Saratogan Greg Wozniak appears in a 2009 photograph published in The Saratogan following his selection as chief ranger of Saratoga National Historical Park in New York, previous to his tenure on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo courtesy The Saratogan

After filling the position for nearly a year and a half without the ability to perform law enforcement duties, Greg Wozniak is gone from his position as Pisgah District Ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Parkway Spokesperson Leesa Brandon would not comment as to whether Wozniak resigned or was fired, citing privacy concerns, but did say in an Oct. 28 email that he no longer works for the National Park Service in any capacity. 

Brandon also declined to provide the date of Wozniak’s separation from the Parkway. However, it occurred between 12:47 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, when Brandon wrote in response to a question from The Smoky Mountain News that Wozniak was still at his post, and 8:48 a.m. Monday, Oct. 28, when she stated in response to a separate question from SMN that he was no longer an NPS employee.

Though he kept the title of district ranger, the position responsible for overseeing law enforcement operations on the Parkway’s largest district, Wozniak has not been able to perform any law enforcement duties since June 13, 2018, when his commission was suspended. The suspension followed a June 12 traffic accident in which Wozniak, off-duty at the time, was turning left to the Interstate 40 on-ramp in Knoxville. The other driver was going straight through the intersection, with both men claiming to have had a green light. Neither driver was hurt, but the vehicles were heavily damaged and had to be towed. 

According to public documents, Wozniak left his truck after the collision to remove a burgundy tackle box and throw it in the bushes. He then retrieved the box and threw it once more, this time off the interstate bridge to the roadway below. When officers arrived on the scene, they found that the box contained 10.1 grams of marijuana, 6.1 grams of mushrooms and six THC edibles. 

A traffic report states that Wozniak had been drinking, but no field sobriety test was ever performed and no DUI charge pressed. He was, however, booked on two charges of drug possession. 

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Wozniak admitted to internal investigators with the National Park Service that he had taken “a couple hits” of marijuana within four hours of getting behind the wheel and consumed “a beer or two” after the marijuana. However, a Knox County judge dismissed the charges, and they were later expunged. 

Following a lengthy investigative and hearing process, Wozniak’s commission was permanently revoked with a document signed April 29 by Superintendent J.D. Lee and NPS Deputy Chief of Operations John Leonard, with Southeast Regional Director Robert Vogel providing the final signature May 1. However, Wozniak continued to fill the district ranger role throughout the nearly six months since. The Smoky Mountain News obtained the revocation document through a Freedom of Information Act Request. 

April 29 was also the date that marked 20 years of qualified law enforcement service for Wozniak under the Federal Employees Retirement System program, according to information previously provided by the Parkway in September. Law enforcement employees can retire at age 50 if they have 20 years of service or at any age with 25 years of service. Wozniak is 46. Brandon would not comment on whether Wozniak is currently employed elsewhere in the federal government, citing privacy concerns. 

Wozniak’s separation from the Park Service comes following a long administrative process. The day after the incident, Blue Ridge Parkway Supervisory Park Ranger Debra Flowers filed a complaint against Wozniak with the NPS Office of Professional Responsibility, which delivered the results of its investigation to the Parkway on Sept. 5, finding that Wozniak had violated Tennessee’s drug laws and federal rules related to drug use. 

Records obtained through FOIA show that the Parkway formally requested a Board of Inquiry hearing on Wozniak’s actions on Oct. 9, 2018. Boards of Inquiry are convened to examine ethics and conduct allegations and determine whether the employee in question should return to full duty, continue to be suspended or have his or her commission permanently revoked. 

Wozniak’s Board of Inquiry was ultimately held on Wednesday, March 6, before a five-member board in Washington, D.C. In a memo to Chief Ranger Neal Labrie dated Friday, March 15, the board delivered its majority recommendation to permanently revoke the commission. According to the written findings, members “struggled” with the fact that Wozniak tried to hide the drugs from law enforcement and said it was “troubling” that, according to Wozniak’s testimony, within a few hours he went from using marijuana with a long-time friend who he had never known to use drugs to purchasing drugs of his own from the friend’s dealer. 

The same day he received the recommendation, Labrie emailed Lee a draft memo to submit requesting permanent revocation of Wozniak’s commission. The document had obtained signatures from both Lee and the regional office by the following Monday, March 18. 

However, evidently something was amiss with that initial form. On April 29, Labrie emailed Lee to say that due to some “administrative record issues” he would need to sign the revocation request again. The new document was identical to the first, except that this one also included a signature line for Leonard at the D.C. office. 

A signed version of this second revocation form was not included in a Freedom of Information Act response that SMN received in September, leaving it unclear at the time of the article published Sept. 25 whether Wozniak’s commission had been revoked or was still suspended. When asked about the status of Wozniak’s commission at the time, a Parkway spokesperson had said it was suspended rather than revoked. 

The document’s exclusion was accidental, said Saudia Muwwakkil, the Park Service’s assistant regional director for communications and legislative affairs. The page didn’t make it through the computer system when the FOIA response was sent for internal review, she said, after double-checking adding that it appears the document was the only one excluded from release. 

As Pisgah District Ranger, Wozniak drew a salary of $88,050 annually, plus benefits. According to a position description, the job’s primary purpose — 80 percent of it — is to manage law enforcement personnel who investigate, apprehend and detain people suspected of breaking the law along the 164-mile district. Incumbents are required to maintain an NPS Type I Federal Land Management Law Enforcement Commission, the description says. 

Wozniak has not held a commission since June 13, 2018, with Ranger Chuck Hester acting in the district ranger role. Wozniak had been filling his time with other tasks not related to law enforcement. 

The Pisgah Ranger District is the Parkway’s largest, in 2018 drawing 4.35 million visits — 29.63 percent of the total 14.69 million visits that year. It accounted for a disproportionate share of logged law enforcement incidents that year, with 1,039 incidents in the Pisgah Ranger District compared to 2,689 incidents on the Parkway as a whole. That means the Pisgah District accounted for 38.64 percent of total incidents despite including only 34.97 percent of the roadway and attracting 29.63 percent of the visitation that year. 

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