DOI IG Says Secretary Zinke Violated Travel Policies

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According to the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Office of Inspector General (OIG), DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke was in violation of the agency’s travel rules on multiple occasions that involved his family traveling with him in government vehicles.

“We found that Secretary Zinke’s wife and other family members had occasionally ridden with him in government vehicles. While this was not in compliance with DOI policy, the DOI Office of the Solicitor’s Division of General Law approved his immediate family to ride with him in government vehicles on a case-by-case basis,” reads the OIG report.

The sticking point appears to be the approval process, the nature of the travel, and the subsequent costs incurred, with a Solicitor’s Office employee claiming that “her approval of unofficial passengers traveling with Secretary Zinke in government vehicles was based on whether the DOI would incur any costs. If there was no cost, she said, she would approve it.”

The OIG also says Zinke sought the approval on the basis of his “inability to use personal vehicles for travel, and therefore travel with family members without violating agency policy.”

However, in several instance, questions were raised due to the seemingly personal nature of the expenses, with the report citing Zinke’s asking “his security detail to drive a non-government person to the airport after a dinner meeting” as well as employing a security detail’s services during a vacation to Turkey and Greece in August of last year, which cost DOI in excess of $25,000.

According to Federal Times’ Jessie Bur, the timing of the report is worth noting, as it comes during a tumultuous period, following “an Oct. 12 email sent by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson raised speculation that Suzanne Israel Tufts, HUD’s assistant secretary, would be replacing the current acting inspector general at Interior, Mary Kendall.”

An adviser to Zinke subsequently denied the stories, claiming that Carson’s e-mail “had false information in it.”

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