Dems ask GAO to investigate Interior staff reassignments

Dems ask GAO to investigate Interior staff reassignments

Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into claims that numerous Interior Department employees have been reassigned for political reasons. 

In a letter sent to the GAO on Wednesday, eight Democrats expressed concern that as many as 33 members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) had been improperly reassigned after Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog | Ag secretary orders environmental rollbacks for Forest Service | Senate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Senior Interior official contacted former employer, violating ethics pledge: watchdog MORE took office last year.

Federal agencies are allowed to reassign employees in SES roles with some limitations. For example, agency heads cannot reassign SES employees until 120 days after they take office.

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"Congress created the SES program to enhance the workforce at federal agencies by developing a group of professionals to ensure delivery of high quality service to the public," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

"We are concerned that mismanagement of this program could lead to premature retirements, lower morale within the federal workforce, higher costs for the Department, and discourage talented professionals from entering the SES."

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans Overnight Energy: Supreme Court reinstates fast-track pipeline permit except for Keystone XL | Judge declines to reverse Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (Wash.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperNot a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat | White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus | Trump faces another challenge to rewrite of bedrock environmental law NEPA White House pushed to release documents on projects expedited due to coronavirus MORE (Del.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties MORE (Mo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallInterior finalizes public lands agency HQ move out West over congressional objections Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Democrats introduce bill to ban chlorpyrifos, other pesticides to protect farmworkers MORE (N.M.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampCentrists, progressives rally around Harris pick for VP 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama MORE (N.D.) and Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PallonePharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine Dem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems MORE (N.J.), Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' Bill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden comes to Washington to honor John Lewis MORE (Md.) and Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.).

Cantwell and Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee previously raised concerns about the reassignments after one Interior Department employee wrote in The Washington Post that he was reassigned for speaking about climate change.

The Interior Department's inspector general launched an investigation into the reassignments in September in response to a letter from the committee Democrats.