Yesterday POGO sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar raising concerns about both the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) failure to respond to investigative findings that regional manager Steve Henke received improper gifts, and the subsequent approval of Mr. Henke's stroll through the revolving door.
BLM’s lack of response to Henke raises questions about whether the Interior Department needs to broaden its recent ethics reform efforts, which have to this point largely focused on the office regulating offshore drilling, and whether current enforcement is sufficient.
BLM Director Bob Abbey recently sent a letter to the San Juan Citizen's Alliance saying that BLM's administrative options are limited at this point, but POGO found that BLM had nearly a month to act—hell, at least issue a slap on the wrist in the form of administrative leave or a warning—and chose to do nothing, sending the message to his employees that flouting ethics rules was inconsequential.
But what's far more disturbing was how inadequate BLM's ethics process was when they approved Henke becoming the president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA). In the decision for Mr. Henke, which POGO obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the ethics official told Mr. Henke that based on her discussion with Mr. Henke and a review of NMOGA's website, there would be no need for post-employment restrictions since his new position would concern only New Mexico (as opposed to federal) oil and gas issues. In our letter we point out that not only does the membership of NMOGA have a significant financial interest in federal oil and gas issues—including lobbying BLM—but that Henke acknowledged as much in a writing sample he sent to NMOGA from his BLM email account.
Read the letter, and our recommendations, here.
POGO wants to know what readers think. Is this the mark of a broken system? Did the ethics official bungle the decision? Is denial not just a river in Egypt? Discuss amongst yourselves.
Here at POGO, we're a little verklempt.
-- Mandy Smithberger
Image of Henke business card is NOT authentic—created from scratch by Mandy Smithberger.