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Westerman Calls for Audit of Interior's Departmental Ethics Office


WASHINGTON, D.C., January 24, 2022 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Inspector General Mark Greenblatt, requesting the Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit DOI's Departmental Ethics Office (DEO) citing concerns that DOI is failing to meet federal ethics requirements. In part, the ranking member wrote:

"Despite numerous congressional inquiries spanning nearly a year, DOI repeatedly fails to produce adequate responses to concerns about Department employees who face potential conflicts of interest. DOI's refusal to cooperate with congressional oversight related to ethics compliance prompts questions about the efficacy and efficiency of the Departmental Ethics Office (DEO). Therefore, to evaluate best practices, efficiency, and effectiveness, I respectfully request that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit the DEO. The audit should review the DEO's programs and operations, particularly, but not limited to, the process through which DOI's political appointees in the Biden Administration receive ethics guidance, recusal obligations, screening arrangements, and ethics waivers."

Read the full letter here.

Background

On June 3, 2021, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) sent a letter to DOI Senior Counselor to the Secretary, Elizabeth Klein, and DOI's designated agency ethics official, Heather Gottry, raising concerns over Klein's potential conflicts of interests stemming from her previous role as Deputy Director at the New York University School of Law’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center.

On June 15, 2021, Westerman and Gosar sent a letter to U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Deputy Director of Policies and Programs Nada Culver and Gottry, raising concerns over Culver's previous environmental activism work and legal challenges against DOI.

On June 22, 2021, Westerman, Gosar and Boebert sent a follow-up letter to Klein and Gottry, requesting additional information to evaluate Klein's compliance with her ethical obligations after she failed to honor her commitment to providing her recusal list and ethics guidance under which she was operating in May of 2021.

On June 28, 2021, Westerman and Gosar sent a letter to DOI Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau and Gottry, requesting information to evaluate Beaudreau's compliance with his ethical requirements due to his prior representation of companies in the wind energy industry. His Public Financial Disclosure report revealed35 clients who contributed over $2 million to his income over a 14-month period.

On July 20, 2021, Westerman and Gosar sent a letter to DOI Deputy Solicitor of Water Resources Daniel Cordalis and Gottry, requesting information regarding his relationship with the Yurok Tribe and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA),his spouse’s fiduciary interests to the same and his previous history of litigation against DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation.

On January 19, 2022, Westerman sent letters to Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Senior Counselor to the Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs Rose Petoskey, BIA Senior Counselor to the Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs Stephanie Sfiridis and Gottry to evaluate Petoskey's and Sfiridis' compliance with their ethical requirements. The Committee requested their signed ethics pledges in addition to copies of their ethics guidance and recusal obligations.

On January 20, 2022, Westerman sent a letter to BLM director Tracy Stone-Manning and Gottry to evaluate Stone-Manning's compliance with her ethical requirements given her connection to tree spiking incidents, the disclosure of a loan from a regular donor to Democratic campaigns and her lack of truthfulness to Congress during her confirmation process.


Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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