HONOLULU (AP) - It was a mistake to sell to tour operators what are supposed to be free tickets for the USS Arizona Memorial, its superintendent said.
Paul DePrey last week told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that selling the tickets was proper and legal, but he later said he was mistaken.
More than 4,000 tickets are available daily for a movie presentation and boat ride to the sunken battleship. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act prohibits the National Park Service from charging a fee to visit the memorial.
After an investigation, officials told DePrey that the ticket sales had violated park policy.
"We stopped the program because I learned I made a mistake," DePrey said.
For about seven months, the park service and its nonprofit fundraising arm, Pacific Historic Parks, sold a portion of the free tickets to tour companies for a fee. The tickets were sold with an audio tour for $6 each to tour companies, according to John Landrysmith, a former park guide at the memorial, and an investigation obtained by the newspaper.
The cost was then passed on to visitors paying for commercial tours.
Landrysmith, an Iraq combat veteran, said he quit after he complained about the diversion of free tickets.
"The hardest part about that, as someone who truly cared about my job and cared about why we were supposed to be there, when we ran out of (walk-up) tickets within 15 minutes to half an hour, to stand there and have to tell folks, 'I'm very sorry, but just don't have any more tickets available,' it broke our hearts," Landrysmith said.
DePrey said the money went to Pacific Historic Parks.