The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has opened a formal investigation into alleged violations of federal ethics rules by six high-ranking agency officials who maintained close ties to former employers.
Mary Kendall, the agency’s deputy inspector general, confirmed the probe in an April 18 letter to the Campaign Legal Center, the D.C.-based nonpartisan nonprofit that named the officials in a 19-page complaint filed in February.
“After reviewing the information you provided, in addition to other information available to us, a related investigation has been opened,” Kendall wrote.
In its complaint, which cited two HuffPost reports, the center wrote that the senior employees’ alleged violations “suggest a disturbing pattern of misconduct” across the agency.
News of the probe comes just as David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist who was recently confirmed as secretary of the Interior Department, is scheduled to appear at the White House on Tuesday for a ceremonial swearing in.
Bernhardt is among several Interior officials who have been accused of violating Trump’s ethics pledge, which bars political appointees in the executive branch from participating in certain matters involving former employers or clients for two years. He maintains he has complied with all ethics rules and has touted his efforts to improve the agency’s “badly neglected” ethics infrastructure.
This is a developing story and will be updated.