Interior Faces Lawsuit over Lack of Transparency Around Potential Conflicts of Interest

Interior Faces Lawsuit over Lack of Transparency Around Potential Conflicts of Interest

  • November 10, 2022
Watchdog driven to litigation to obtain ethics docs

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust announced a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior to pierce the agency’s veil of secrecy around certain ethics documents. The watchdog was forced to go to court to obtain waivers to ethics restrictions and records related to potential conflicts of interest for high-ranking officials.

The request, one of PPT’s first, was submitted more than a year and a half ago. It has been more than a full year since the watchdog has heard anything from the Department regarding the status of the request. The request asks for ethics waivers and recusal statements of several high-ranking officials at DOI. At least two political appointees at Interior received waivers to the ethics restrictions of the Biden Ethics Pledge and PPT has records indicating at least one other member of DOI leadership may have received an exemption to ethics restrictions.

These documents are essential in revealing where potential conflicts of interest lie for these officials and where they may have received exceptions allowing them to participate in matters these conflicts would normally have barred them from. The only avenue for the American public to obtain them is via a Freedom of Information Act request. Yet DOI has refused to provide these documents after more than 18 months.

“In light of the Biden Administration’s promises to be the most transparent in history, Deb Haaland’s Department of the Interior’s intransigence with these ethics documents is astounding,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “After assuring us they were working on the request, they proceeded to ghost us for more than a year. And people wonder why the American public’s trust in its government continues to plunge to even lower depths.”