19-11-14 RG to Sec. Bernhardt on BLM Reorg Concerns.pdf

Washington, D.C. – In a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt this morning, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) says the attempted forced relocation of close to 250 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo., and other offices across the West needs to be justified to Congress without delay, and that Acting Director William Perry Pendley’s failure to answer even basic questions about the effort is unacceptable. In aseparate letter this morning, Grijalva asks the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the decision-making process behind the attempted forced move to assess whether career staff were consulted, what funds are being used, and whether the agency’s goals are compatible with the proposal.

The letter to Bernhardt is available at http://bit.ly/377RPcA. The letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro is available at http://bit.ly/2qcCoiQ.

Both letters come days after BLM employees began receiving “relocation notices” that gave them until Dec. 12 to decide to either “agree to their specific new post” in the West or face termination. As Government Executive reported on Nov. 12, the effort to force employees to leave their homes and families in Washington has destroyed morale and crippled productivity:

Employees currently at BLM have told Government Executive they know of very few colleagues who plan to relocate, and even some of those who do are still looking for jobs in Washington and will come back home as soon as possible. Many employees have already found new jobs and departed the agency. The workers all suggested morale at the Washington office has plummeted, mistrust of leadership has grown and a sinking feeling that the Trump administration is seeking to sideline important work has set in. 

As Democrats discussed at a Sept. 10 hearing where Pendley testified on the proposed move, this is likely the purpose of the entire campaign to relocate BLM’s Washington-based staff. Grijalva reminds Bernhardt in today’s letter that while Pendley’s testimony “described a detailed analysis of each position assessing its optimal location,” Pendley was forced to admit that “BLM had not consulted with BLM employees as to whether they might leave the agency as a result of these planned moves.”

 Grijalva notes that at the time, Pendley promised to consult with Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs staff on whether he could share the “analysis” DOI had performed to justify the relocation, but no substantive analysis has ever been provided to Congress.

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