President Trump’s nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday he will leave his family-run weather forecasting company if he is confirmed to the post.
Barry Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee he and his wife will “resign from every company, board and organization that could be conflict with my new role” and “sell all of our ownership interests, shares and options in AccuWeather” if he is confirmed to lead NOAA.
“It is the only way I could do this,” he said at his confirmation hearing. “I will have no allegiance elsewhere.”
Critics of Myers have warned that, if confirmed as NOAA chief, he could hurt the National Weather Service, a NOAA agency that serves as competition for private weather forecasting companies such as AccuWeather.
The company backed a bill in 2005 that would have rolled back much of the Weather Service’s duties in favor of private sector forecasting firms such as AccuWeather.
Myers said his divestment from his family business would follow federal law and ethics guidelines. But Democrats questioned whether he would be truly independent, especially with his family’s other ties to the company: his brothers are AccuWeather’s majority owners, a son-in-law works for the company and a nephew is on its board.
“With your family connections, your brothers at AccuWeather, obviously there is the concern about potential conflicts of interest,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTechnology is easy but politics is hard for NASA's Lunar Human Landing System Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Climate change turning US into coffee country Elon Musk mocks Biden for ignoring his company's historic space flight MORE (D-Fla.) said. “What we need is a NOAA administrator who will do what is the very best for the American people.”
Myers said that, beyond ending his financial stake in AccuWeather, he wouldn’t discuss government business with his family members.
“I have made it clear that I will divest as you described,” he said to Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzPanic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Hotel workers need a lifeline; It's time to pass The Save Hotel Jobs Act Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Scientists potty train cows to cut pollution MORE (D-Hawaii). “I made it clear to my bothers, in fact jokingly I explained to them that we may see each other at Thanksgiving dinner and we can talk about football and family things, but we cannot talk about NOAA.”
Democrats were skeptical of the commitment.
“My question remains — that dispositionally, and maybe even ideologically — that you haven’t made the transition all the way to the government and repressing NOAA and representing the public first,” Schatz said.
“That is going to be a transition, but I would encourage you to think through, not just whether you’re complying with [the law] but understanding this new role really is different than your old role,” he said.