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Doc Hastings accuses Department of Interior inspector general of mismanagement

  • Tri-City Herald
  • Published Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at 12:50 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, at 6 p.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Doc Hastings in a letter to the White House accused a Department of the Interior official of mismanagement and called for President Obama to nominate a replacement.

The letter, sent last week, said the department's Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, who has in effect served as acting inspector general for four years, has failed to act as an independent watchdog and instead has accommodated the desires of department officials and the Obama administration while seeking permanent appointment to the job.

"Under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, an Inspector General is expected to be a politically independent watchdog responsible for identifying fraud, waste and abuse, and to report management problems to the Department head and Congress so that they may ensure such problems are appropriately addressed," Hastings, a Pasco Republican, said in the letter. "Regrettably, Ms. Kendall has not appropriately upheld this standard and it is not appropriate for her to remain in charge of the (Inspector General's) office any longer."

Hastings is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which has overseen the office run by Kendall for about two years. Along with the letter, committee staff released a 72-page report detailing instances they say show Kendall's mismanagement.

A spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General did not return a voice mail left by the Herald on Friday.

The report, titled Holding Interior Watchdog Accountable, claims that Kendall and her chief of staff Stephen Hardgrove did not fully investigate allegations of misconduct by the Obama administration and instead handled complaints informally without public reports or informing Congress.

Examples included allegations that:

-- Hardgrove decided not to pursue a whistleblower complaint by a Bureau of Reclamation scientist who said he was wrongfully terminated for questioning the scientific integrity of the Interior Department's decision to remove Klamath River dams;

-- No ethics review or evaluation was performed of a romantic relationship between a department official and a renewable energy lobbyist while the official worked on renewable energy issues for the department;

-- No public report was made on allegations that the former director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement may have interfered in an investigation of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for political purposes;

-- Kendall allowed political appointees in the department to offer extensive edits, reviews and comments on a draft study on the department's renewable energy program, and that Kendall softened critical findings in the report causing disagreement among her staff;

-- Kendall inadequately documented the management of investigations.

This isn't the first time Hastings and Kendall have butted heads. New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune reported May 10, 2012, that Hastings questioned the independence of Kendall's investigation into allegations the Obama administration intentionally edited a report on a deep-water drilling moratorium to include endorsement by experts when the experts hadn't been consulted.

Hastings has been an advocate of drilling for oil offshore and on public lands, and a vocal opponent of breaching Northwest hydroelectric dams.

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