Beaudreau failed to create a culture of no-tolerance when it came to sexual harassment and retaliation at Interior. His legacy does not provide hope for advocates of clean government.
Beaudreau allowed some of the Department’s most senior leaders to continue serving after demonstrating a clear disregard for their ethics responsibilities. And that’s before he joined Big Law to represent a host of Interior-focused clients over the last four years. Now he could be coming back as Deputy Secretary, raising numerous issues of ethics conflicts and leaving some to wonder whether the culture of harassment will return.
On April 14, 2021, the White House announced its intention to nominate Tommy Beaudreau to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Beaudreau is a familiar face for many in the Biden Administration and the regulated community. He spent over six years at the Department in the Obama Administration and represented a lengthy list of Interior-focused clients during the last four years. Yet, all this experience comes with genuine concern over potential conflicts and what the future of harassment policy holds for Interior employees.
Obama Department of the Interior
During Beaudreau’s tenure as Chief of Staff, sexual harassment at the Department proliferated. While agency leadership promised reform time and again, no real measures were taken to impose accountability or protect female employees, according to a 2016 article by The Atlantic. Investigative reports from 2016 show over 60 current and former NPS employees reaching out to tell their stories of harassment. Numerous other employees came forward from the ranks of the Bureau of Land Management, another agency within Interior that Beaudreau had clear authority over while at the Department.
In fact, as The Atlantic reported, “In 2014, 13 employees sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, alleging sexual harassment, gender -discrimination and retaliation by male boatmen and supervisors in the Grand Canyon’s River District. An Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation found a “long-term pattern of sexual harassment and hostile work environment,” corroborated by 22 witnesses.” Beaudreau, who was Jewell’s Chief of Staff from 2014-2017, failed to issue a clear harassment policy in response. This left his successors to clean up the mess, as evidenced by a December 2017 Interior survey that found an astounding 35% of employees harassed or discriminated against.
Ethics violations of Senate-confirmed political appointees were also handled with similar disregard. In fact, even after the OIG found that NPS Director Jon Jarvis violated ethics rules, Jarvis received a mild rebuke and continued to lead the National Park Service through the end of the Administration. This was the case, despite Jarvis admitting a clear intent to avoid seeking ethics advice because his “book would probably never have been published” otherwise. Is this the kind of dedication to ethics compliance we can expect from political appointees Beaudreau would manage while at the Department?
With the strong desire to overturn the previous Administration’s policies, what will happen to the strong anti-harassment and retaliation policies issued in 2018, such as Personnel Bulletin 18-01? If Beaudreau had issued a policy as clear and forceful, it would not have fallen on his successors and may have even resulted in increased morale and reduced harassment. Will Beaudreau, again, prioritize the Secretary’s policy goals over a culture of compliance and free from harassment?
Energy Lawyer at One of the Biggest Law Firms in the World: Latham & Watkins
The revolving door has never stopped spinning for Tommy Beaudreau. He might just be one of the largest swamp creatures being introduced into the Biden Administration – at least at the Department of the Interior. He joined Democrat-heavy law firm Latham & Watkins (L&W) in January 2017, along with two other senior officials from Interior. It was later revealed that Beaudreau began negotiations with the firm in May 2016, raising questions about his participation in numerous matters in which he may have been required to recuse himself.
At L&W, Beaudreau acted as Global Co-Chair of the firm’s Project Siting & Approvals Practice along with his former Interior colleague Janice Schneider. Protect the Public’s Trust has learned that Beaudreau and his L&W colleagues have been engaged with Interior officials over the past several years, including on many high profile issues involving onshore and offshore energy development, endangered species listings, and other major public land management decisions made by the Department. More broadly, L&W is well-known for its deep relationships and clientele base in the natural resource and energy industries, each of which should be considered when developing Beaudreau’s list of potential conflicts of interest. Once a complete analysis has been completed, Beaudreau should expect significant restrictions on what he will be permitted to work on. Given the breadth of these potential conflicts, when will the public be alerted to his full list of recusals?