The new director of the National Hurricane Center, an outspoken critic of his superiors since he took over in January, charged Friday night that they are trying to muzzle him and could be setting him up for termination.
Bill Proenza said the acting director of the National Weather Service, Mary Glackin, visited his office in West Miami-Dade Friday and handed him a three-page letter of reprimand.
''I don't think they can pull the rug out from under me right now,'' Proenza said, ``but there is no question they are trying to muzzle me.''
In recent interviews with The Miami Herald and other media, Proenza has strongly criticized leaders of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for spending millions of dollars on a public-relations campaign while hurricane forecasters deal with budget shortfalls.
One of his main concerns has been the imminent demise of a key weather satellite called QuikScat, launched in 1999 and long past its designed lifetime.
No replacement currently is in development and the loss of QuikScat could diminish the accuracy of some hurricane forecasts by up to 16 percent, Proenza and other experts have said.
Glackin's letter, obtained by The Miami Herald, charges that Proenza made statements that ``may have caused some unnecessary confusion about NOAA's ability to accurately predict tropical storms.''
In the letter, Glackin also told Proenza that his actions had been ``requiring me to spend a disproportionate amount of time to correct any confusion; causing undue concern and misunderstanding among your staff; and taking valuable time away from your public role . . .''
Several forecasters and other staffers at the hurricane center have told The Miami Herald that they fully support Proenza, and his comments have earned compliments from many emergency managers and others.
Proenza said he shared the letter with members of his staff Friday.
''I felt like I could not have any secrets from my staff,'' he said. ``They were simply outraged.''
It was not the first time he has been disciplined since taking over the center.
Proenza said that on April 13, he was told by Louis Uccellini, a high-ranking weather service official: ``You better stop these QuikScat [and other] complaints. I'm warning you. You have NOAA, DOC [the U.S. Department of Commerce] and the White House pissed off.''
Asked about his next move, Proenza said Friday night:
``I'm not going to be silenced. I know my responsibilities and I know what I have to do.''