Democrats question whether controversial Interior watchdog pick was vetted

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Washington, October 19, 2018 | comments

Democratic lawmakers are asking the association of government watchdogs whether it has vetted a controversial candidate who is slated to become the Interior Department’s inspector general and take over the ongoing probes into Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The letter from Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee to the head of the inspectors general group questions whether Suzanne Tufts, a GOP political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is qualified to oversee the agency's internal watchdog. Critics have alleged Tufts has no background in ethical investigations, and they worry her appointment could be an effort to undermine the probes on Zinke that the current IG has open.

“It is not clear that the new acting IG is sufficiently qualified or politically independent to take the helm of the Office of Inspector General," states the letter House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) sent to the council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, an association that normally recommends IG candidates.

“The mere threat of replacing an IG when the head of the agency it overseas is under heavy scrutiny will send a signal to current and future IGs through the federal government that releasing unfavorable findings may threaten their job,” the letter continues. The lawmakers ask whether the association had looked at Tufts' qualifications prior to her being suggested for the office.

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