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Former US Interior Department Secretary Found to Have Violated Ethics Rules

FILE - Then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke arrives at the U.S Capitol in Washington, Dec. 3, 2018.

The inspector general for the U.S. Interior Department released a report Wednesday saying the former department secretary, Ryan Zinke, violated ethics obligations and misused his position while in office through his involvement in a land development deal.

The report, released on the department’s website, details how the Inspector General’s office investigated allegations that Zinke had remained involved in a development project in his home state of Montana after he had taken office. Zinke had been a congressman from Montana before accepting former President Donald Trump’s appointment as interior secretary.

The allegations indicate Zinke and his wife were in negotiations with private developers regarding a commercial development project known as 95 Karrow. One of the developers and primary investors in the 95 Karrow project was a senior executive of the Halliburton Company, who allegedly stood to benefit from official actions Zinke could make as secretary of the Interior.

The report says the Zinkes and the developers all declined to be interviewed for the investigation, but the inspector general’s office subpoenaed the developer for all emails and text messages related to the project. Those communications confirmed the allegations that he had remained involved, even after committing in required documentation to federal officials that he would no longer do so.

In addition, the investigation found Zinke misused his official position in violation of federal regulations by directing his subordinates to assist him with matters related to the project.

The office of the Inspector General said the findings of the report were released last year to the U.S. Justice Department, which declined to prosecute. The office said the report was provided to the current secretary of the Interior “for any action deemed appropriate.”

Zinke is currently a candidate for an open Congressional seat in Montana.

Some information for this report came from the Associated Press.