Interior Inspector General: Ryan Zinke 'did not comply with ethical obligations and duty of candor'
Former Interior secretary responds 'shots fired' & 'not backing down.'
The U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General report, titled “Former Secretary Did Not Comply With Ethical Obligations and Duty of Candor,” was publicly released today. It’s here.
“The former Secretary remained involved in a land development project and did not disclose his involvement when questioned by an ethics official.”
“We investigated allegations that former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Ryan Zinke continued to be involved in a land development project in his hometown of Whitefish, MT, after he was appointed as Secretary of the Interior and that his continued involvement posed a potential conflict of interest with his official duties.
“The allegations centered around the Secretary’s ongoing involvement with the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation (GNVPP or Foundation) that Secretary Zinke and others had established in 2007 and from which Secretary Zinke represented that he had resigned upon appointment as Secretary of the Interior. According to the allegations, Secretary Zinke and his wife were in negotiations with private developers regarding the use of the Foundation’s land for a commercial development project known as 95 Karrow. One of the developers and primary investors in the 95 Karrow project was a senior executive of the Halliburton Company who allegedly stood to benefit from Secretary Zinke’s official actions. The allegations also stated that Secretary Zinke may have used Federal resources and his position as Secretary of the Interior for personal financial gain and that other DOI staff may have actively tried to conceal the Secretary’s involvement.
“Secretary Zinke, his wife, and the 95 Karrow project developers, through their attorneys, declined our requests for an interview, but we issued Inspector General subpoenas to the developers for emails and text messages related to the project. The emails and text messages the developers produced showed that Secretary Zinke continued to be involved in Foundation matters while he was Secretary of the Interior, even after resigning from the Foundation and committing in required documentation to relevant Federal officials that he would no longer manage or provide services to the Foundation. Specifically, the communications showed that Secretary Zinke repeatedly communicated with the developers of the 95 Karrow project and negotiated with them on behalf of the Foundation by discussing the use of Foundation property for the project, specific design aspects of the project, and the development of a microbrewery on the property.
“In light of these communications, we found that Secretary Zinke failed to abide by his ethics obligations in which he committed not to manage or provide any other services to the Foundation after his appointment as Secretary of the Interior. We also found that Secretary Zinke did not comply with his duty of candor when questioned by the DOI’s then Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) about his continued involvement in Foundation matters, including the 95 Karrow project. In addition, we found that Secretary Zinke misused his official position in violation of Federal regulations by directing his subordinates to assist him with matters related to 1 the Foundation and the 95 Karrow project. We did not find, however, that Secretary Zinke’s staff tried to conceal the Secretary’s involvement in Foundation matters or the 95 Karrow project.
“In addition, we did not substantiate the allegation that Secretary Zinke violated Federal conflict of interest laws. Specifically, because we did not find that Secretary Zinke participated in any official matters involving the Foundation or the 95 Karrow project, we did not conclude that he violated 18 U.S.C. § 208, the Federal criminal conflict of interest statute, or that he violated his obligation to recuse from all official matters involving the Foundation for 2 years after his resignation from the Foundation. We also did not find that Secretary Zinke took any official action to specifically benefit the Halliburton Company.
“We referred our findings to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which declined prosecution of this matter in the summer of 2021.
“We are providing this report to the current Secretary of the Interior for any action deemed appropriate.”
Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s response:
“Shots fired by the deep state,” he writes on Twitter. “Not backing down.”
“Only in Biden’s corrupt admin is talking to my neighbor a sin,” he continues. “15 years ago our family created a free and open space for people to enjoy in Whitefish. We are proud of the children's sledding park that dozens of kids use every weekend & countless locals use for exercise every day.”
Plus, he’s running for U.S. Congress again.
Indigenous Wire is a Native-owned, reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.