Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Paperwork, paperwork - or why Skylar Capo may become a process improvement professional someday

Those who preach simplicity say that complexity can lead to errors. And an error certainly happened in a particular case, noted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

On June 13, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observed a woman carrying a cage that contained a woodpecker at a home improvement store in Fredericksburg, Virginia. As possession of a bird may potentially violate the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the agent initiated an inquiry to determine whether a potential violation had occurred.

Upon speaking with Ms. Capo, on June 27, the agent determined that no further action was warranted. A citation that had been previously drafted by the agent was cancelled on June 28.

Or, as WUSA 9 told the story:

Eleven-year-old aspiring veterinarian, Skylar Capo, sprang into action the second she learned that a baby woodpecker in her Dad's backyard was about to be eaten by the family cat....

But on the drive home, the Capo family stopped at a Lowes in Fredericksburg and they brought the bird inside because of the heat. That's when they were confronted by a fellow shopper who said she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service....

The problem was that the woodpecker is a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Therefore, it is illegal to take or transport a baby woodpecker. The Capo family says they had no idea....

So as soon as the Capo family returned home, they say they opened the cage, the bird flew away, and they reported it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"They said that's great, that's exactly what we want to see," said Capo.

And, as mentioned above, the Fish & Wildlife Service cancelled the citation that was drafted. Only one problem - for some reason, the cancellation didn't go through. WUSA 9 describes what happened next:

But roughly two weeks later, that same woman from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed up at Capo's front door. This time, Capo says the woman was accompanied by a state trooper. Capo refused to accept a citation, but was later mailed a notice to appear in U.S. District Court for unlawfully taking a migratory bird. She's also been slapped with a $535 fine.

The media got a hold of the story, prominently mentioning the 11 year old girl, which put the Virginia State Police in an uncomfortable situation.

"We have confirmed that the US Fish and Wildlife agent requested our presence when they served their federal summons. The trooper stood on the porch and said nothing. We had nothing to do with the charge."

In its statement, the Fish & Wildlife Service explained what happened:

Unfortunately, the citation was processed unintentionally through an automated system despite our office’s request to cancel the ticket. The Service has contacted Ms. Capo to express our regret. The Service is also sending Ms. Capo a formal letter explaining the clerical error and confirming that ticket should never have been issued. The ticket is null and void.

But how did all of this affect Skylar Capo? Perhaps her enthusiasm about becoming a veterinarian has waned (maybe she's discovered the word "malpractice"). But at least she's been exposed to the world of process improvement, and maybe she'll find a rewarding career in that arena.
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