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DOJ Won’t Prosecute Wildlife Official Behind Sketchy PR Contract

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Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys won’t prosecute a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) director who crossed federal procurement laws by improperly influencing the awarding of a noncompetitive contract to an unqualified company at the request of a friend who contributed $700,000 to government projects.

A Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Inspector General (IG) report made public Friday, said the actions by Bryan Arroyo, assistant director of FWS’ International Affairs (IA) program, “appear to violate [federal regulations], which prohibit federal employees from giving preferential treatment to private organizations or individuals.”

The IG’s investigators said Arroyo’s grants officer told them that “during his second interview that Arroyo and his deputy gave him a ‘directive’ to do a single-source award to Partner-Impact.”

Arroyo intervened in June 2015 on behalf of Partner-Impact, LLC, which was given a $256,100 contract for a public relations campaign aimed at reducing demand for illegal wildlife products.

“Arroyo acknowledged that, given his authority over the review panel members, his vocal support for Partner-Impact, and his repeated inquiries about the status of the award, he influenced his employees to award the agreement to Partner-Impact,” the IG said. “His actions appear to violate (federal regulation), which prohibits federal employees from giving preferential treatment to private organizations or individuals.”

Arroyo did so at the suggestion of a lawyer who facilitated $700,000 in donations to FWS programs over the last few years, according to the IG.

Arroyo, described by his colleagues as the “driving force” behind the award, can’t claim ignorance of procurement regulations because his deputy and the grants officer said on multiple occasions that IA needed a competitive bidding process, according to the IG. (RELATED: DOJ Won’t Charge EPA Employee Who Caused Gold King Mine Disaster)

But the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to prosecute Arroyo for directing the sole-source contract to the company. No explanation was offered for the decision not to file charges in the case.

Partner-Impact didn’t complete its contract objectives in part because it had no prior government contracts or relevant experience, according to the IG. No one in Arroyo’s office researched the company’s past performance or qualifications.

When Partner-Impact failed, Arroyo directed an additional $300,000 to the company — more than twice its original award — to get the job done. Arroyo claimed he canceled the additional money after his first interview with federal investigators.

“Arroyo told us that after he reviewed a draft of our audit report, he realized that he should not have been so involved in the award process,” the IG said.

Since DOJ declined to prosecute Arroyo, the IG referred the case to Michael Bean, principal deputy assistant for FWS, for any disciplinary action.

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