DOT Hides Info About Who Was Minding the Store When the Secretary Was Away

DOT Hides Info About Who Was Minding the Store When the Secretary Was Away

  • June 2, 2022

PPT sues for transparency around who filled in for Secretary Buttigieg during his paternity leave

Today, federal watchdog Protect the Public’s Trust announced a transparency lawsuit against the Department of Transportation. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request at the center of the lawsuit seeks to obtain information about who was in charge when Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg took paternity leave.

As the supply chain crisis heated up last year, news broke that Secretary Buttigieg had taken paternity leave. While the Secretary’s commitment to his family and desire to spend time with his new children are certainly commendable, the American public was left to wonder who was at the helm of the Department, a cabinet-level agency that has wide ranging responsibilities and an annual budget of over $80 billion. In addition, the American public deserves to know if someone else was acting as the primary decision maker for any period of time or if the Department was operating at a reduced capacity while the Secretary was on leave.

In December, PPT submitted a FOIA request to DOT seeking answers to the questions regarding who, if anyone, at the Department had been delegated authority to make decisions and perform actions on behalf of Secretary Buttigieg during his absence. In early February, DOT indicated they would respond within five to seven weeks. Now, with the upper limit of that range having passed more than twice, PPT has been forced to resort to litigation.

“As a parent myself I recognize that raising children is the most important job in the world,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, stated. “However, regardless of any individual’s circumstances, it is incumbent upon the leadership of an agency with an $80 billion budget and tens of thousands of employees, to ensure that the work on behalf of the American public continues to be performed and that the decisions affecting their daily lives continue to be made. Especially in the wake of the overlapping and cascading crises plaguing our nation that touch on DOT’s jurisdiction – such as supply chain, inflation, and infrastructure – it is important for DOT to reveal who was directing the agency and making those crucial decisions during the time of the Secretary’s leave.”