Since taking power at the U.S. Interior Department last year, Secretary Ryan Zinke has been the subject of more than a dozen investigations by the DOI’s Office of Inspector General. Some are ongoing and the latest report was released Monday.
It concludes that early in his tenure, Zinke misused government vehicles and invited political supporters and his family along for a tour of the Channel Islands in California.
The Interior Department said those political supporters were experts on the area, and Zinke later reimbursed the government for his family’s travel.
But Aaron Weiss, media director for the Center For Western Priorities, isn’t buying it.
“This boat ride in California was just a little celebration cruise for the Zinkes and some of their friends that they tried to pass off as official business,” he said.
Weiss’ organization has been critical of Zinke in the past. He said he’s also concerned over news reports from last week that said the U.S. Interior Department’s chief investigator was about to be replaced by a Trump appointee.
That news came from a leaked email from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson congratulating the employee, Suzanne Tufts, for her new job. But then an Interior spokesperson said the news was false.
“That just reeked of political interference because the Inspector General currently has at least four, probably more, open investigations into Secretary Zinke,” Weiss said.
Tufts abruptly resigned from the federal government Friday.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.