Reassigned Interior Employees Blame Politics, Climate Work

Investigators unable to determine if anything illegal occurred because the agency did not document its rationale for the reassignments

By Molly Priddy

BILLINGS — An internal watchdog at the U.S. Department of Interior says 16 senior employees reassigned to new duties under the Trump administration viewed their moves as political retribution or punishment for their work on climate change, energy or conservation.

However, investigators said they were unable to determine if anything illegal occurred because the agency did not document its rationale for the reassignments.

The findings released Wednesday by the agency’s Inspector General follow a backlash over the reassignment of almost three dozen senior employees in the months after Trump appointee Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took office.

The Inspector General’s report says the moves were made without any clear criteria and without consulting the affected employees or their supervisors.

Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift says the agency acted within its legal authority.

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