A recently-retired atmospheric scientist at NASA has been fined $10,000 and sentenced to one year’s probation for directing tens of thousands of dollars in NASA contracts to his wife’s company (Washington Examiner).
Mark Schoeberl was chief scientist for NASA’s Earth Sciences Division, and, according to the right-leaning Examiner’s lead, “one of the scientific world’s most cited authorities on the human effect on Earth’s atmosphere”. He retired on 17 September from the agency, and two weeks later pled guilty to steering no-bid contracts to his wife’s firm, Animated Earth LLC. In 2007, his financial disclosure form omitted any interest in the company, even though it earned $50,000-plus that year in NASA contracts.
Between 2006 and 2008, NASA awarded more than $190,000 to Animated Earth without competition, although prosecutors said the government didn’t end up losing money because the company completed the contracted work (GovExec.com).
The relationship between Schoeberl and Animated Earth, which develops plasma-screen kiosks with near real-time satellite images of Earth’s atmosphere, was well-known at NASA. More than 50 scientists submitted letters to the court praising Schoeberl’s character and credentials, and three addressed the court to request leniency (GovExec.com).