Following reports that Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke filled an employee board entirely with political appointees, the Western Values Project, a Montana-based public lands watchdog, filed suit in federal court to force the disclosure of documents related to the board’s activities. Politico first reported that the Executive Resources Board (ERB) is entirely comprised of political appointees, breaking precedent and ignoring the guidance of government ethics authorities.
This suit comes as Secretary Zinke is taking heavy criticism for his accusation that many career employees at DOI are not politically loyal to the Trump administration.
“We will not allow Secretary Zinke to transform Interior into a K Street lobbying shop for the special interests that want to exploit public lands at the expense of Western communities,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “The only thing worse than Interior’s attempts to keep this effort secret is the fact that Secretary Zinke is flouting the norms that are supposed to maintain a balanced, even-handed approach to public lands management. “
A good deal of the appointees come from the resource extraction industry that DOI is supposed to regulate — a clear sign that Secretary Zinke is stacking the deck at the agency with political operatives loyal to his and President Trump’s campaign backers.
Western Values Project uncovered the names of the board members as the result of a Freedom of Information Act Request. However, DOI has delayed the release of additional documents related to the board’s work.
See the lawsuit at this link.