Energy & Environment

Complaint filed over Interior’s use of acting directors in place of nominees

An employee’s rights group filed a complaint Monday over the Department of the Interior’s continued practice of filling open positions with temporary acting directors.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sent a complaint to the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General on Monday arguing that the department is misusing and abusing the roles of at least three temporary acting directors.

In their complaint, PEER says Interior’s continued employment of National Park Service acting Director Daniel Smith, Bureau of Land Management acting Director Brian Steed and Fish and Wildlife Service acting Director Greg Sheehan appears to be a “blatant violation” of the Vacancies Reform Act.


“These three positions are to be filled through presidential appointment subject to the advice and consent of the Senate as required by the Appointments Clause of the United States Constitution (Article II, Section 2),” the letter from PEER read. “As such, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Act, which prevents the President from circumventing the constitutional advice and consent role of the U.S. Senate by simply appointing people to serve as ‘acting’ directors for long periods and completely bypassing Senate confirmation.”

All three employees currently are meant to temporarily fill vacancies at the Department of the Interior. However, President Trump has yet to nominate anyone to permanently fill the posts.

That has seemingly indefinitely left the employees in the position of acting directors and PEER says that’s unlawful.

Furthermore, PEER argues that actions taken by the bureaus under the unlawful acting directors may also be unlawful, and could leave those agencies open to lawsuits.

A portion of the Vacancy Act reads that actions taken by acting directors who violate the act “shall have no force or effect.”

“These legal infirmities give rise to an additional basis for challenging actions taken by these agencies during the past few months in court. For example, Greg Sheehan at [the Fish and Wildlife Service] has changed Endangered Species Act procedures, among other actions — all of which are void and vulnerable to lawsuits,” PEER’s director Jeff Ruch said Monday in a statement.

Tags complain Donald Trump Inspector General Interior PEER
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