Today, E&E News reported that Downey Magallanes, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s deputy chief of staff for policy, is leaving Interior to work in the private sector. News of her departure comes just days after reports that another key Interior staffer, Vincent DeVito, former counselor for energy policy, is also leaving the Department. The departures come as Secretary Zinke is on a mysterious trip to Turkey.
Statement from Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger:
“Their boss goes on a trip abroad, and within two weeks two key Interior staff who are part of Zinke’s inner circle have left the department. These departures add to the questions already swirling about the scandal-plagued Secretary, his recent travel, and how he is managing the Department of Interior. How much longer will Secretary Zinke be gone, and will any of his inner circle remain by the time he gets back?”
On Friday, August 16th, Secretary Zinke was spotted in the Turkish Airlines lounge at Dulles International Airport, and later boarded a flight to Istanbul. According to a Politico source, the secretary was on personal travel. The Department of Interior has refused to comment on his whereabouts.
While at Interior, Downey Magallanes oversaw Interior’s controversial monuments review which resulted in the slashing of two national monuments and the largest rollback in public lands protections in American history. Magallanes’ father was previously a Vice President at coal giant Peabody Energy, and although he said Magallanes would recuse herself from issues involving Peabody, she met with company representatives at least once. Interestingly, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which President Trump gutted as a result of the review Magallanes helped lead, is “coal-rich.” Interior’s Bureau of Land Management recently released draft resource management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, which includes a report that highlights the development potential for coal, oil, gas, uranium and other materials in the areas taken out of Grand Staircase.
Vincent DeVito was Ryan Zinke’s Political Action Committee’s treasurer-turned-Interior counselor for energy policy. While DeVito was Treasurer, Zinke’s PAC came under Federal Election Commission scrutiny for campaign finance discrepancies. While at Interior, DeVito oversaw the Royalty Policy Committee and met and corresponded frequently with industry groups and lobbyists, including American Petroleum Institute, Western Energy Alliance, and Independent Petroleum Association of America, among others.