Investigative Group

Trump Loses First Cabinet-Level Watchdog, Left Without Public Explanation

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General (IG) David Montoya quietly became the first presidentially appointed cabinet-level watchdog to leave since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has learned.

Montoya departed sometime in June but without any public announcements. His LinkedIn page and the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s (CIGIE) website still list him as the HUD IG. The reason, terms and exact date of his departure are unclear.

Helen Albert took over as the acting IG sometime in June, according to the HUD watchdog’s official web site.

Montoya’s departure followed soon after he sent a June 9 letter to Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley in response to questions the Iowa Republican asked regarding 14 IG reports TheDCNF revealed had been withheld from the public. His letter contained factual errors, mischaracterizations and an admission of hiding HUD mismanagement IG investigators and auditors discovered.

The IGs for the remaining 14 cabinet-level departments are holdovers from President Barack Obama. A temporary IGs took over the Department of Defense in January 2016 and the Department of Energy just weeks before Trump’s inauguration after the permanent watchdogs left their posts.

The Senate confirmed the Department of Commerce IG just 11 days before the inauguration, and the Department of the Interior (DOI) has been without a permanent IG since 2009.

Oversight experts warned the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in 2015 about the dangers of vacant IG positions.

“Among the most pervasive threats to IG independence and effectiveness are long-standing vacancies that have languished at IG offices throughout the federal government,” Project on Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian told the committee at the time.

In fact, the Department of State lacked a permanent IG throughout Hillary Clinton’s tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat, including when she sent and received dozens of classified emails through her personal email account on a private, unsecured server.

Additionally, Obama’s pick for the DOI IG – currently the deputy IG and formerly the acting chief – has been accused of being too close with the department she’s supposed to scrutinize, which may explain why the Senate has not confirmed her.

The HUD IG’s office did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

Jennifer Duplessie contributed to this report.

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