Miami The embattled director of the National Hurricane Center, Bill Proenza, refused to resign Friday, leaving at an impasse what has become a bitter rift in the forescasting group the nation relies upon for accurate warnings of storm strikes.
About half the staff at the National Hurricane Center here signed a letter this week asking for the ouster of their boss.
But on Friday, Proenza insisted in interviews he was staying over their objections, at least for now.
"We may have some disagreements in the philosophy of making changes at the hurricane center ..," Proenza told The Associated Press. "Does that justify removing someone?"
On one side of the rift is Proenza, appointed six months ago, who quickly made headlines for criticizing NOAA's spending priorities, arguing that more money should be spent on hurricane detection. Proenza assumed the job in January, taking over from longtime Director Max Mayfield.
On the other side are some members of his staff, including prominent forecasters, who say Proenza has misrepresented or ignored their advice.
"Bill has poisoned the atmosphere here at the hurricane center," senior hurricane specialist James Franklin said at an impromptu news conference outside the building Friday. "He has divided the staff, he's been dismissive of the staff, he doesn't respect the staff and he lies about what we say."
Of the 23 staffers who signed the letter requesting a new director, saying the "effective functioning of the National Hurricane Center is at stake," most were hurricane specialists and meteorologists.
Franklin and others refused to outline all the specifics of their complaints regarding Proenza, saying that rather than airing them publicly, they had related them to a NOAA team who visited this week to investigate the controversy.