Inspector General: Zinke’s Reassignment Of Native Americans And Climate Scientists Possibly Illegal

The reassignment of dozens of senior career Interior Department (DOI) officials last year may have violated federal law, a damning internal report released April 11, 2018 found. But investigators with the DOI Inspector General’s office said they were unable to say definitively because the agency failed to properly document their reasons for ousting the employees.

“Absent documentation, we could not independently determine whether or not the ERB complied with the Federal legal requirements,” said the report, referring to a board made up of Trump administration political appointees at the agency.

The report did determine, however, that the board did not properly consider the officials’ qualifications, time in office, or other valid criteria when selecting them to be forced out of their jobs.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has for several months been under fire for the reassignments, which Democrats say may have discriminated against department employees based on their political ideology or their race. Though the IG report does not mention it, a review found that a full third of those reassigned are Native American — a potential violation of both federal anti-discrimination laws and the agency’s own Indian Preference rules.

The report also noted that, according to government guidelines, the board is supposed to be made up of a mix of non-partisan career officials and political appointees. But under Zinke, its voting membership is comprised solely of Trump administration picks.

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