Interior Secretary Haaland Added to Watchlist as Questions Swirl Around Ethics and Departmental Leadership

Issues with Financial Disclosures, Potential Conflicts of Top-Level Staff Could Hinder Department Operations

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust added Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to its list of Executive Branch leaders with ethical questions to answer. Despite a dearth of executive experience and a number of issues with previous financial disclosure documents, Haaland was named to lead the 70,000-employee agency with a complex budget that could run to more than $17 billion.

Already the Department has been forced to shuffle staff in response to poor judgement and potential conflicts of interest. She has also appointed top lieutenants and advisors whose numerous potential conflicts of interest could seriously hamper their abilities to perform their duties.

“The haphazard manner in which Secretary Haaland appears to have handled her required financial disclosures raises questions about whether she really took this important measure of transparency seriously,” said Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “The missteps and potential conflicts of her closest advisors don’t inspire confidence in her ability to manage the ethical maze that comes with running a large federal agency. The American public needs answers to numerous questions to be convinced the Department will operate in a manner that will earn their confidence and trust.”

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OPEN QUESTIONS

  • Why has it been so difficult for Secretary Haaland to correctly file a simple financial disclosure document, and when will we see the final and correct version?
  • How can the public be assured that the DOI’s complex multibillion-dollar budget will be effectively and properly cared for under Secretary Haaland’s leadership if a simple financial disclosure form has proven so difficult?
  • What faith should the American people have in the integrity of the DOI’s leaders when one member of Secretary Haaland’s inner circle was forced out of her position by the White House for a series of “lapses of judgement” and has a history of failure to uphold ethics rules for federal employees, but remains in a key decision-making role at the Department?
  • Was Secretary Haaland aware that the two individuals she ordered to carry out the directives of SO 3399 both have vast potential conflicts of interests that may preclude them from performing those duties without violating their ethics obligations?
  • If Secretary Haaland was aware of Ms. Klein and Mr. Beaudreau’s potential conflicts of interests, did she consult with the DOI’s Ethics Office to ensure Ms. Klein and Mr. Beaudreau could legally perform the duties assigned to them prior to issuing SO 3399? If so, what guidance did the Ethics Office provide, and will that be made known to the public so the American people can be assured of Ms. Klein and Mr. Beaudreau’s compliance?
  • What systems have been put in place to ensure Secretary Haaland’s senior advisors are complying with their ethics obligations while still fulfilling their assigned duties?