Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Interior IG Doesn't Pull Punches

I can't do the Interior IG's most recent report on Julie McDonald justice, so I thought I'd just quote it:

As you know, in previous investigations we determined that MacDonald injected herself personally and profoundly in a number of ESA issues. We determined that MacDonald’s management style was abrupt and abrasive, if not abusive, and that her conduct demoralized and frustrated her staff as well as her subordinate managers. 

Our findings from this investigation are much the same, although we found that the nature and extent of MacDonald’s influence varied dramatically from one decision to another.  For example, in one instance we found that MacDonald went to extraordinary efforts to influence a particular decision, but her efforts ultimately had no effect on the outcome.  In other instances, her involvement clearly caused a particular result. Ironically, in several instances, she played no role in the decision-making process, but because of her reputation, FW personnel believed that she had, in fact, been exronically, in several instances, she played no role in the decision-making process, but because of her reputation, FW personnel believed that she had, in fact, been exting influence, as did members of Congress and the public. 

Overall, however, MacDonald’s zeal to advance her agenda has caused considerable harm to the integrity of the ESA program and to the morale and reputation of the FW, as well as potential harm to individual species. Her heavy-handedness has cast doubt on nearly every ESA decision issued during her tenure; of the 20 decisions we reviewed, her influence potentially jeopardized 13 ESA decisions. MacDonald’s conduct was backed by the seemingly blind support of former Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Judge Craig Manson. Judge Manson so thoroughly supported MacDonald that even when a known error in a Federal Register notice, which was caused by MacDonald’s calculations, was brought to Manson’s attention, he directed that the notice be published regardless of the error. MacDonald was also ably abetted in her attempts to interfere with the science by Special Assistant Randal Bowman, Office of the  Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, who held the position and authority to advance the unwritten policy to exclude as many areas as practicable from Critical Habitat Determinations, as well as Attorney Thomas Graf, Office of the Solicitor, whose remarkable lack of recollection leaves one to speculate whether he was doing MacDonald’s bidding or was a rogue actor simply emulating her policy style.

 In the end, the cloud of MacDonald’s overreaching, and the actions of those who enable and assisted her, have caused the unnecessary expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-issue decisions and litigation costs to defend decisions that, in at least two instances, courts found to be arbitrary and capricious. (Ironically, in many of the decisions that ended up in litigation, advice from the Office of the Solicitor (SOL) had been ignored, yet the SOL subsequently had to suffer the indignity of defending decisions that it had deemed legally flawed.) These costs are in addition to the monies expended by the OIG on three separate investigations into MacDonald’s influence over ESA decisions. 

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that our investigation revealed an enormous policy void, which MacDonald was able to readily exploit. 

The report goes on to suggest that Interior ought to fill that policy void with policy and regulations so that this sort of abuse cannot occur again.

Governance/Management | Permalink

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