Interior Watchdog ‘Politicized’ Investigations, Enviro Nonprofit Claims

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Department of Interior Acting Inspector General Mary Kendall has “politicized” investigations, “focused on trivial matters,” “kept IG operations secret,” and should not be confirmed as a permanent head, an environmental nonprofit said Thursday.

Kendall “lacks vision, integrity and leadership skills to be an effective IG,” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility wrote in a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman [crscore]Lisa Murkowski[/crscore], a Republican from Alaska, and Ranking Member [crscore]Maria Cantwell[/crscore], a Democrat from Washington.

PEER “is a national alliance of local state and federal resources professionals” and monitors “natural resource management agencies,” according to its website.

Kendall has been both the Acting IG and Interior’s Deputy IG since 2009 when the top job came open. Her nomination by President Obama as the permanent IG is now before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has scheduled an Oct. 20 confirmation hearing.

“Instead of being objective and nonpartisan, we have found Ms. Kendall’s office to be governed by a political calculus,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said. “In an acting position, she would forfeit her prospects for nomination by angering the White House, but she is now so compromised she is unlikely to find her independence once confirmed.”

Kendall has “politicized IG investigations, pulling punches in trying to avoid upsetting political appointees,” “focused on trivial matters, conducting misguided witch hunts while refusing to look at long-term systemic problems plaguing Interior,” and “kept IG operations secret, publishing only a tiny percentage of completed investigations and resisting Freedom of Information Act requests for files on closed cases,” the environmental group said.

The letter alleges that, for example, “the IG declined to investigate numerous reports from” Interior employees “that indicated a lax approach to overseeing offshore drilling evidencing. This unexplored pattern of official malfeasance later contributed to the disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Steve Hardgrove, a spokesman for Kendall, rejected the allegations against Kendall, saying “we have not had an opportunity to closely review PEER’s letter to Senators Murkowski and Cantwell, however, the initial review detects a number of inaccuracies.”

Hardgrove  also said “the allegations against Mary Kendall are dated, with most occurring during the transition from the previous Inspector General and do not accurately reflect the leadership of Ms. Kendall or the organizational change she has made over the past several years.”

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