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Press Release

Interior Lacks Enforcement and Accountability for Unethical Behavior and Criminal Conduct

Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held an oversight hearing on the lack of enforcement and accountably from the Obama Administration in response to a growing number of reports of unethical and criminal conduct at the Department of the Interior (DOI).

Since last month’s subcommittee hearing on the “culture of corruption” at DOI, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released more reports of blatant unethical and illegal acts from high-ranking employees. Criminal violations are then referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ), but they have routinely declined prosecution case after case. The DOJ was invited to testify at the hearing, but they declined to provide a witness.

“Unfortunately it has become entirely clear that there is no ‘culture of compliance’ at the Department of the Interior. Action and accountability behind it fall terribly short of the responsibility that taxpayers deserve,” Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) stated.

Some of the most egregious violations include long term patterns of sexual harassment at both the Cape Canaveral National Seashore and the Grand Canyon National Park and decades of scientific misconduct stretching as far back as 1996. This data manipulation impacted work products worth over $100 million with unknown, far reaching consequences on research projects, agency action and academia. As a result of the findings, the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) had to permanently close an Energy Resources Program laboratory in Colorado.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) reiterated his call for National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis’ resignation. He questioned Kendall on the IG's report and subsequent accounts that Director Jarvis lied to DOI Secretary Jewell and attempted to mislead OIG investigators. The initial report found that he violated ethics rules by using his official position to obtain the book deal.

After the two previous hearings, quite frankly, I’ve been shocked at the culture of corruption and misconduct that has been allowed to persist at the National Park Service,” Rep. Hice added.

Director Jarvis assured Secretary Jewell he wrote the book at the request of the publisher and on his own time with no ethics issues, which were found to be a lies. Jarvis issued a public apology for his behavior on May 27, 2016, which Kendall, during the hearing, referred to as “terribly qualified and not as sincere as I would have liked to seen.”

One report, released yesterday, found that Fay Iudicello, then-Director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of the Executive Secretariat and Regulatory Affairs (ES), violated Federal hiring practices in an effort to hire a relative of her ex-husband as a management analyst. She actively discriminated against more qualified applicants with master’s degrees and veteran’s preference in the process. Ludicello retired earlier this year. In response to questions from Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) on the report, DOI’s Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall called out the Office of the Secretary for “egregious hiring issues.”

Chairman Bishop followed up, asking if any disciplinary action had been taken against Ludicello. “Once she’s retired, the Department is very limited in what it can do,” Kendall responded.  

The panel also reviewed the case of Stephen Barton, the Chief of Administration and Information Management for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Barton failed to disclose he was also employed and paid nearly $400,000 as the treasurer of a private organization that receives grants from and is audited by FWS. He also stuck taxpayers with a $96,000 travel bill. The DOJ declined to prosecute this case.

DOI’s Kendall attributed the lack of enforcement to “constrained resources” and “ever-increasing complaints and allegations.”

Failure of accountability extends beyond the Department of the Interior. Of 29 criminal cases that the OIG referred to the Department of Justice over the course of six months, 17 were declined for prosecution. This number is troubling, especially when DOJ participates alongside OIG in some of these investigations that it ultimately declines to prosecute,” Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said.  

Click here to view full witness testimony.