HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The Arizona Memorial ticket scandal has been brewing for a year but so far, the man at the center of the controversy, Frank Middleton, remains on the job.
Two internal reports by the National Park Service show that Middleton and other memorial officials were aware that tickets intended to be distributed to the public for free were being diverted to tour companies that charged visitors anywhere from $39 to $89.
"This is one of the most hallowed spots in the United States and it's the last place you've expect to be ripped off," said Jeff Ruch, executive director at the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which released the reports.
"They should consider changing management and cleaning house, literally cleaning house."
The Arizona Memorial is the state's number 1 tourist attraction with over 4,300 visitors a day. But visitors sometimes wait hours before it opens to get in.
And according to staffers quoted in the reports, walk-up passes were often unavailable, taken by tour companies such as Roberts Tours, VIP Tours and Discover Hawaii.
Two internal Park Service reports completed last year revealed the extent of the ticket diversion scheme. These reports were only made public after PEER filed a freedom of information request and pushed for their release.
The reports noted that tour companies received stacks of tickets intended for the public and that some visitors wound up paying between $39 and $89 for those tickets that should have been free.
And when staffers raised concerns about the shortage of tickets, the report says Middleton, who runs the ticket program, told them to "Do what you are told."
"The reports indicate that the tour companies are basically running the memorial, not just tickets but the whole operation," Ruch said.
"People aren't going to be open to visiting if they can't get tickets or they have to pay an awful lot of money to take a tour."
The Park Service had no comment when asked about the report.