02-21-13 “House Natural Resources Committee… released a scathing 75-page report detailing misconduct in the performance and execution of IG investigations under the four-year tenure of “Acting” IG – Mary Kendall….
What is so striking – the categories of issues identified in this House Committee Report (having nothing to do with NPS at Point Reyes) are almost identical to the suite of issues involving NPS science at Drakes Estero – unfinished IG reports, gross errors, glaring omissions, significant misrepresentations, altered data, missing emails – and the list goes on. “
This is the story of TWO REPORTS – one from House Natural Resources Committee (just released) AND the second, a new Inspector General’s Report, prepared by the OIG under DOI IG Mary Kendall, on NPS science at Point Reyes/Drakes Estero (released in early February).
In a letter to President Obama this past week, House Natural Resources Committee Chair, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), told the President to appoint a permanent Inspector General at the Interior Department and released a scathing 75-page report detailing misconduct in the performance and execution of IG investigations under the four-year tenure of “Acting” IG – Mary Kendall.
A few weeks ago, on February 7, 2013 (five months late), OIG Kendall released the results of what was supposed to be a misconduct investigation on NPS Science at Drakes Estero (on false sound data in the NPS DEIS for the DBOC permit extension). There’s no nice way to say it: The IG’s report is a white-wash, from start-to-finish. I won’t go into the details here, but in the coming next few days, the OIG misconduct will be exposed. A story this past week in the Point Reyes Light only scratched the surface.
The House Committee report is posted on the Committee’s web site and can be accessed from the following link: http://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/oversightreportdepartmentofinterior.pdf
What is so striking – the categories of issues identified in this House Committee Report (having nothing to do with NPS at Point Reyes) are almost identical to the suite of issues involving NPS science at Drakes Estero – unfinished IG reports, gross errors, glaring omissions, significant misrepresentations, altered data, missing emails – and the list goes on.
From the IG’s Report – Selected Examples of Getting it Wrong:
* NPS regulations are crystal clear, the NPS was required – MANDATORILY – to measure the sound from Kevin’s oyster boats, the oyster tumbler and other noise-generating machines. MEASURE IT. NPS didn’t bother. NPS can’t say they didn’t know — the mandatory regulation was in place for more than a decade — since 2001. Instead, the IG investigators interviewed several NPS officials and NPS contractors, and then quoted them, in their overdue report, explaining (words to the effect), “oh, we don’t do it that way…we use proxy data all the time.” Armed with an “that’s-the-way-we-do-it” explanation, the IG then effectively concluded, if they do it all the time, it must be okay. So much for law and policy. So much for mandatory regulations. NPS didn’t bother. The IG didn’t care.
* The Goodman Misconduct Complaint, submitted last April, set forth six major allegations against the NPS. Kendall and her OIG team didn’t bother to address three of them. The IG turned their back on half the Goodman complaint. Another way to look at it – the IG simply “airbrushed” away major elements of the Complaint.
* IG Investigators, Vince Haecker and Trey DeLaPena, told Kevin, when they originally interviewed him, that he would be given an opportunity to “ground truth/fact check” NPS responses. Kevin never heard from the investigators again. Lunny requests, several months later, for follow-up meetings went unanswered – ignored.
A week ago, within days of the latest IG report giving NPS a clean bill-of-ethical-health, Justice Department lawyers raced to Federal Court, and, citing the IG’s report, told Judges at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Lunny complaints about NPS science were wrong and the oyster farm was causing real environmental impacts. This is after the Secretary said he wasn’t finalizing the EIS, failed to submit it (as required) to EPA, failed to publish it in the Federal Register, failed to allow a 30-day comment period, failed to produce a Record of Decision (ROD) as set forth, in writing to Kevin and Nancy Lunny in September 2010, and then said, the day he announced he was shutting down the farm – the EIS didn’t matter.
If the sound from Kevin’s oyster tumbler was as loud as NPS said it was, as the OIG confirmed as valid and the Department of Justice told the Federal Courts, then the conversation between Kevin and Nancy Lunny and Interior Secretary Salazar (depicted in the photo below could not have taken place) – and would have been drowned out by the noise. But it wasn’t.
From the Russian River Times – “On his visit to the oyster farm, Salazar and Kevin and Nancy Lunny hold a perfectly normal conversation in front of the oyster tumbler. Nancy is holding a sound meter, which was used to measure the levels to compare with the values in the Draft EIS and Final EIS, which were based on ‘imported’ data rather than the actual measurement required by NPS policy. At the NPS reported sound levels, which would have been clearly audible over a mile away, this conversation would have been impossible. ”
Instead of investigating NPS and their serial misconduct Kendall and the OIG decided to “partner” with NPS. With the most recent IG’s report, Inspector General Kendall’s integrity was undeniably compromised. From the just-published House Committee Report, and the examples set forth in it, we now learn that the Interior Department’s ethical problems were not limited to NPS and what continues to unfold at Drakes Estero.
The Committee press release is pasted into this email, below. Articles from Greenwire, “Hastings Faults Acting IG for ‘Accommodating’ Admin, Urges Obama to Appoint Permanent Watchdog,” and THE Hill “Senior House Republican Calls on Obama to Replace ‘Accommodating’ Interior Watchdog.” are also pasted below.
|Chairman Hastings Calls for President Obama to Appoint Permanent Inspector General for the Department of the Interior
Committee Staff Report Highlights Mismanagement of IG under Mary Kendall’s Administration
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 21, 2013 – House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) today wrote to President Obama requesting that he nominate a permanent Inspector General for the Department of the Interior. Since the Department’s previous Inspector General Earl Devaney was appointed to a new position nearly four years ago, the Department’s Office of Inspector General (IG) has been run by Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, serving in an acting capacity.
Committee staff also released a report today, entitled “Holding Interior Watchdog Accountable,” that details mismanagement by Ms. Kendall while overseeing the IG. These include: not pursuing investigations involving political appointees or Administration priorities; informing senior Department officials of problems without conducting formal investigations and not issuing reports to Congress and the public; not adequately documenting the management of IG investigations and operations; serving in an appointed policy role in conflict with the IG’s investigative duties; preventing an investigator from seeking information from a White House official; and providing inaccurate and misleading information to Congress.
The report also details how Ms. Kendall has openly expressed the desire to receive the nomination to become the permanent Inspector General while administering the IG’s oversight role in a manner that was privately accommodating to senior Department officials and the Obama Administration compared to the IG’s more assertive style in past Administrations.
Click here to read a copy of the letter.
Click here to read a copy of the report.
“There have been too many instances where the Department’s IG office has been mismanaged by Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, serving as acting Inspector General, and IG Chief of Staff Stephen Hardgrove. For too long, their accommodation of the Department’s leadership have compromised and undermined the professional work of the IG’s career staff. It is time to end the decline in trust that has resulted from their administration of the IG and provide the office with a clear leader empowered with the authority that flows from the permanence and independence of a Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation,” wrote Chairman Hastings in the letter to President Obama. “I urge you to act without further delay to nominate a well-qualified, uncompromised individual to serve as a permanent Inspector General for the Department of the Interior.”
The report examines a number of specific actions and decisions by Ms. Kendall and IG Chief of Staff Hardgrove, several of which have not been publically discussed prior to the release of this Committee staff report:
•Not Actively Pursuing Ethics Investigations. The IG on several occasions did not fully investigate allegations of misconduct by the Obama Administration in the same manner and thoroughness as previous Administrations and chose to handle problems informally without issuing public reports or informing Congress. Examples:
1) IG Chief of Staff Hardgrove made a unilateral decision not to pursue a complaint filed with the IG’s Office of Whistleblower Protection from a Bureau of Reclamation scientist who believed he was wrongfully terminated for questioning the scientific integrity of the Department’s decision to remove the Klamath River dams
2) No ethics review or evaluations were conducted by the IG into Counselor to the Secretary Steve Black’s romantic relationship with a renewable energy lobbyist to determine whether a violation of federal ethics and conflict of interest laws occurred with his work on renewable energy issues for the Department
3) The IG did not comprehensively investigate and publicly report on allegations that former BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich may have interfered in the Joint Investigation Team’s Deepwater Horizon investigation for political purposes.
• Renewable Energy Study. Despite the extensive work of a team of auditors, Ms. Kendall decided not to finalize a draft study of the Department’s renewable energy program that had critical findings. The IG allowed political appointees at the Department offer extensive edits, reviews and comments to the study and Ms. Kendall made personal edits to the study that softened the report to the point that it caused dispute and disagreement among her own staff.
• Drilling Moratorium Report Investigation. The IG conducted an investigation into the editing of the Department of the Interior’s Drilling Moratorium Report that made it to appear as though the six-month drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico was supported by engineering experts when it was not. Emails from the IG’s investigators detail how they were not able to obtain all DOI documents that may have been relevant to their investigation, and they were prevented from interviewing Secretary Salazar or White House staff involved in editing the report. There have since been concerns over possible whistleblower retaliation. In addition, Ms. Kendall testified before Congress that she was not involved in the process of developing the Drilling Moratorium Report, yet served on Secretary Salazar’s OCS Safety Oversight board. This conflicting policy role undermined her ability to be impartial in investigating a matter that she had direct knowledge of and involvement with. Ms. Kendall also testified that she had never read the Drilling Moratorium Report, but internal IG documents suggest otherwise.
Ms. Kendall is currently under investigation by the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency for potential conflict of interests and lack of independence related to the Drilling Moratorium Report and subsequent IG investigations.
A bipartisan group of Senators also recently called on President Obama to fill vacant Inspector General positions at six departments, including the Department of the Interior.
|Contact: Jill Strait or Spencer Pederson 202-226-9019
Hastings faults acting IG for ‘accommodating’ admin, urges Obama to appoint permanent watchdog
Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) today called on President Obama to appoint a permanent inspector general at the Interior Department, arguing that the acting IG has failed to hold the agency and the administration accountable.
Republican committee staff today also released a report arguing that acting IG Mary Kendall since 2009 has taken an “accommodating and cooperative approach” to the post that has undermined the office’s independence. Without being confirmed, Kendall is faced with the awkward task of demanding accountability of the administration while also seeking the president’s nomination, the report notes.
“For too long, their accommodation of the department’s leadership have compromised and undermined the professional work of the IG’s career staff,” Hastings said in a statement. “It is time to end the decline in trust that has resulted from their administration of the IG and provide the office with a clear leader empowered with the authority that flows from the permanence and independence of a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.”
Hastings last Congress led an investigation into Kendall’s probe of an Interior report that erroneously claimed the agency’s moratorium on deepwater drilling following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was supported by outside engineers. Hastings claimed Kendall oversaw a biased investigation of the report’s editing, which found no conclusive evidence that the mistakes were intentional.
Hastings’ request comes nearly a month after a bipartisan group of 16 senators urged Obama to nominate candidates to fill vacant inspector general posts at six major federal agencies, including Interior (E&E Daily, Jan. 25).
Members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by incoming Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and ranking member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), said IGs’ task of “speaking truth to power” can be especially difficult for acting officials who lack presidential endorsement or Senate confirmation.
An email to the White House this afternoon was not returned by press time.
|Senior House Republican calls on Obama to replace ‘accommodating’ Interior watchdog
By Zack Colman – 02/21/13 12:10 PM ET
House Natural Resources Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) wants President Obama to replace the acting head of Interior Department’s internal watchdog for being too soft on the White House.
Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall has helmed Interior’s Office of Inspector General for four years. Hastings said in a Thursday letter to Obama that replacing Kendall would remedy an office “in serious need of independent leadership.”
House Natural Resources Republicans have slammed Kendall’s role in reviewing a report that called for a six-month Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling freeze following the 2010 BP oil spill, which the White House implemented.
Hastings said Kendall and her chief of staff, Stephen Hardgrove, have “compromised and undermined” the Interior’s internal watchdog. He labeled their performance as “privately accommodating to senior Department officials and your administration” in an effort for Kendall to nab permanent inspector general position.
The commitee questioned issues beyond the drilling moratorium in a report released Thursday. The report alleges, among other items, that the inspector general dropped a review of renewable energy programs on federal lands that the committee said would have reflected poorly on the administration.
Kris Kolesnik, a spokesman with the Interior Office of Inspector General, said the watchdog could not “meaningfully respond to the selective soliloquy” of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“Anyone interested in the whole story would have to read all the testimony from the August 2, 2012 hearing, talk to all of those that were involved in the matters reported on, and have access to all the documents and interviews made available to the committee staff. The committee’s February 21, 2013 report paints a very biased picture,” Kolesnik said in a Thursday statement.
Hastings and committee Republicans have mainly questioned Kendall’s impartiality in investigating the May 2010 report that called for the drilling moratorium and other drilling-safety measures.
They say internal Interior emails showed Kendall was in meetings to develop the report she later probed.
Kendall has denied she had any part in writing the report. She said she was involved in meetings to get up to speed with deepwater drilling issues.
Republicans and industry opposed the temporary ban, calling it an overreaction to the April 2010 BP oil spill.
Hastings has convened several hearings on the May 2010 report, which has included subpoenas.
Interior has criticized the committee’s tactics, noting it has complied with Hastings’ requests for information and documents related to the report.
— This story was updated at 6:01 p.m.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/284223-senior-house-republican-calls-on-obama-to-replace-accommodating-interior-watchdog#ixzz2LcoNHCoB