Environmentalists Are Mad Over Interior Department’s Use Of Acting Directors

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

An environmental group filed a complaint Monday over the Department of the Interior (DOI) using acting directors to temporarily fill positions still vacant.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) point specifically to National Park Service Acting Director Daniel Smith, Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed and Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Greg Sheehan as serving in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, according to PEER.

None of the three acting directors served in a senior position for 90 days in the year before taking the acting director position or were appointed by President Donald Trump. Also, Sheehan has served more than the 210-day limit imposed by the act, according to PEER.

“PEER is either lying or doesn’t have a basic understanding of facts,”DOI Spokewoman Heather Swift told McClatchy in an email disputing the claims. Swift claimed none of the officials mentioned are serving as acting directors.

The Trump administration has not yet nominated anyone to fill those positions, PEER’s complaint says.

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act voids any action taken by noncompliant officials, opening the Trump administration up to lawsuits and possible reversal actions taken by the three acting directors.

“Trump’s dereliction of duty has created the anomaly of acting directors unable to act,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “This chronic leadership failure casts a deep, murky legal shadow across a wide range of Interior decisions that may be legal nullities.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appointed all three men to their positions. Zinke named Smith acting director, Sheehan was appointed to the position of deputy director and Steed is “exercising authority of the director,” according to the DOI.

The DOI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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