The Interior’s Inspector General released a report on Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s politically motivated efforts to reassign career civil servants at the department. The report found that there was no plan or reason for the reassignments, which follow a long list of other ethical lapses by the Secretary.
According to the report, of the 31 reassigned employees who were interviewed, only 8 had positive perceptions of their reassignment, while “17 senior executives selected for reassignment questioned whether these reassignments were political or punitive, based on a prior conflict with DOI leadership, or on the senior executive’s nearness to retirement. Many executives speculated that multiple reasons applied.” The report concluded that Interior officials should create a plan with criteria, document the reassignment process and consult with department leadership among other recommendations.
Western Values Project’s Executive Director Chris Saeger released the following statement on the report:
This report confirms what we already knew – Ryan Zinke thinks there’s one set of rules for himself and another for everyone else.
Secretary Zinke has failed at just about every turn as the nation’s leading land manager, and this report is just one of many examples of his attempts to politicize the way our nation’s outdoor heritage is cared for. Much like the lack of documentation on his questionable travel expenses, Zinke seems to be skirting the law by failing to document his actions.
What is really hard to understand is how someone like Zinke is now attacking the very civil servants and career employees that ensure our national parks and public lands are maintained and managed now and for future generations.
Given his continued contempt for the career employees he now manages and how he’s stacked the deck for special interests, it is not hard to imagine that morale at the department is at rock bottom.”
Stacking the deck at Interior:
Western Values Project (WVP) has been documenting Interior’s revolving-door between lobbyist and appointees under Zinke at www.departmentofinfluence.org.
After a WVP Freedom of Information request, Interior released of the names of the Executive Resources Board (ERB), which was entirely comprised of political appointees until Interior included two career employees in November 2017. Interior has not released the current makeup of the board to determine if it is indeed ‘nonpartisan.’
One of the new employees on the board had previously been appointed to a Deputy Director position under President Bush and was involved in several controversial decisions, including mountaintop removal, that benefited industry. The other new board member was part of Interior’s efforts to scrap the 2015 hydraulic fracturing rule.
Contempt for career civil servants:
Zinke called civil servants ‘serpents’ when suggesting he’d like to privatize campgrounds across the nation’s national parks.
He told an oil industry group that he had ‘30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag.’
Zinke threatened to eliminate 4,000 employees at Interior through draconian budget cuts. A memo from the acting director of the Bureau Land Management (BLM) was sent to employees saying that they should expect to lose 1,000 positions by 2017.
The IG investigation was opened in September 2017 regarding the “extraordinary and politically suspect reassignment of dozens of Senior Executive Service (SES) members.”
Also published on Medium.