Pew consultant confirms USFS attorney’s ‘I don’t care’ comment
Controversial comments attributed to a U.S. Forest Service attorney were indeed made, according to a man who was in the room.
Bill Wickman, a former longtime Forest Service employee, told the Quincy Library Group that attorney James Rosen said he didn’t care about the plight of logger Randy Pew or Plumas County.
Pew, who, along with Wickman, represented Pew Forest Products in a recent arbitration hearing, said Rosen’s comments were callus and shocking during the hearing.
According to Pew, Rosen said, “I don’t care about you. I don’t care about your family, the people who work for you, or your county.”
After hearing comments from the community that “Randy might be trying to mislead what the attorney said,” Wickman said he felt compelled to tell his side.
“I feel like my credibility is a little bit on the line, because I was with Randy,” Wickman said during the QLG meeting, which included local Forest Service representatives. “Jamie (Rosen) did say that.
“And at that point, my neck got red probably up to my ears,” Wickman said. “And I told Jamie that’s the first time, in working for the Forest Service for 32 years, that I have heard such a statement. And I’m embarrassed to say I wore that green uniform.”
Wickman told the QLG gathering that he wasn’t bringing the matter to them for discussion. He said he was simply trying to set the record straight.
But that didn’t stop some people at the meeting from commenting.
Tim Holabird, a member of Congressman Tom McClintock’s staff, said McClintock is taking the matter “very seriously.”
“I can assure you, this is going to end up on the House floor,” Holabird said. “This is a very serious issue. And we really thank Bill Wickman for the effort he has done.”
Wickman, who retired from the Forest Service after a 32-year career, has been assisting Pew as an unpaid consultant in Pew’s battle with the Forest Service over a contract dispute.
Pew said his Greenville logging company lost more than $1 million during a timber salvage operation in the wake of the 2007 Moonlight Fire. Pew said the losses have put his company on the brink of bankruptcy.
At the advice of Regional Forester Randy Moore and Rosen, Pew said he agreed to a binding arbitration hearing as part of the alternative dispute resolution process.
Pew claimed the Forest Service’s cruise (estimate) of available timber was far short, leading to his company’s losses. He asked for the Forest Service to help cover some of his losses.
A judge sided with the Forest Service, ruling that it was contractually Pew’s responsibility to conduct a cruise and not rely on the Forest Service’s estimates.
Wickman said Rosen and the Forest Service built their case around the cruise disclaimer in the contract instead of negotiating a settlement in good faith.
Wickman, who said he has known Rosen for about 20 years, said he was stunned by the attorney’s lack of compassion during the hearing.
“I told Jamie, ‘I’ve known you for a long time. And there has to be some compassion in this thing,’” Wickman said. “The Forest Service has asked communities, they’ve asked everybody, to be their partner.
“Maybe Jamie just lost it for a minute,” Wickman added. “Because I know Jamie. But he said what was said. And it wasn’t right.”
Rosen, whose denial that he made the “I don’t care” comments compelled Wickman to speak out, stood by his recollection of the meeting.
Efforts by Feather Publishing to get a direct comment by phone from Rosen were again unsuccessful. But Rosen offered a statement through Forest Service press officer John Heil in Vallejo.
“Again, Rosen assured me that he did not say that,” Heil said. “He said we do care about the community; however there is a body of law that deals with how contracts are carried out.
“Furthermore, the Office of the General Counsel provides advice and counsel but does not make the decision. The decision was made by the contracting officer and reaffirmed through the alternative dispute resolution, where the judge rendered a decision.”
Despite the controversy over Rosen’s alleged statements, Wickman and Pew have individually credited the Forest Service for its support at the local level.
“(Deputy Supervisor) Laurence Crabtree and (Supervisor) Earl Ford have worked very diligently, very honestly, with Randy (Pew) after the denial of the claim, and before the appeal was filed, to see if there could be possibly some resolution,” Wickman said.
Wickman said he and Pew are scheduled to meet April 2 with Randy Moore.
“The meeting is just to try to see what went wrong, and where we might be able to go from here,” Wickman said.