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Project on Government Oversight

Interior Department Ethics Problems Spill into BLM

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) sent a letter yesterday to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey raising concerns that BLM is ignoring ethics violations by its officials. POGO discovered that BLM took no action after the Interior Department Inspector General found BLM District Manager Steve Henke accepted gifts from oil companies without reporting them. Furthermore, BLM documents obtained by POGO appear to show that ethics officials failed to exercise due diligence when they approved Henke's recent move through the revolving door to become president of an oil and gas association. POGO is asking the Interior Department to review its ethics policies and practices when dealing with Department employees seeking employment, particularly high-level positions, at organizations that might have business before the Department.

"BLM seems not to have noticed the meltdown of the Minerals Management Service," said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. "It's shocking that BLM wasn't concerned with the misconduct of one of its managers, nor his turn through the revolving door to represent the companies he was supposed to have been overseeing. Henke's new position could present a significant conflict of interest. This should be a no-brainer."

POGO obtained Henke's application to become the president of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association (NMOGA) through the Freedom of Information Act. In the application Henke sent from his BLM e-mail account, he wrote that he was fully aware his job would require him to work on federal oil and gas issues. He also bragged he "unequivocally" announced to his employees in the Farmington, New Mexico, BLM office that they were "back in the oil and gas business." Despite BLM’s possession of these documents, the ethics official found that BLM would not need to apply any post-employment restrictions on Henke.

"What will it take to end Interior's cozy relationship with industry?" asked Brian.

POGO's letter with additional recommendations can be found here.  A pdf of the BLM documents can be found here.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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