Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Bob Abbey has responded to POGO’s request and asked the Department of the Interior's in-house watchdog to "renew its investigative inquiries regarding certain questionable activities" surrounding the departure of a former district manager.
Interior’s Inspector General (IG) found that then-Farmington, NM District Manager Steve Henke accepted gifts and solicited donations from prohibited sources. Abbey’s request comes on the heels of POGO’s recent investigation, which found that BLM failed to respond to the IG’s findings of misconduct and that ethics officials failed to diligently research Henke’s new employer in evaluating whether to apply post-employment restrictions.
"New information has come to my attention regarding former BLM employee Steve Henke," Abbey said in a letter sent on Monday to Acting Inspector General (IG) Mary Kendall. Abbey’s letter requests that the IG investigation also “include activities which eventually led to his employment by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association."
This investigation should help to inform the broader ethics reform at Interior that POGO considers essential to making sure that they are effective, ethical custodians of the public’s resources. In the meantime, BLM should consider barring Henke from lobbying his former colleagues at the agency.
Henke’s case demonstrates that it’s not just about having the right rules in place—Henke had completed all of his ethical training—but making sure that enforcement creates a culture where coziness with industry is prohibited.
-- Mandy Smithberger
Image completely fabricated by POGO.
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