E&E, IG Dismisses Ethics Complaint


The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General has dismissed an ethics complaint filed more than five months ago against the Bureau of Land Management’s acting director.

But the IG’s office never notified the wild horse advocacy group that filed the complaint of its decision against opening a formal case against William Perry Pendley.

The IG’s office also never told Pendley, although a spokeswoman for the investigative agency said that’s routine in cases where a formal case is never opened.

Wild Horse Education filed the ethics complaint at issue in early November (E&E News PM, Nov. 4, 2019).

The complaint — filed by Laura Leigh, the advocacy group’s president — suggested that Pendley was working on policies to reduce growing wild horse and burro herds with some of the organizations on a lengthy list of special-interest groups that Pendley recused himself from interacting with on BLM business while employed at the bureau.

The complaint contended that BLM policies supported by Pendley would “directly benefit entities on the recusal list,” specifically the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, which advocates for livestock ranchers, and the farm bureaus in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

The complaint alleged that the “sweeping changes to, and extreme position of Mr. Pendley on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro program” reflect “positions actively advocated for through lobby efforts that will directly benefit entities on the recusal list.”

It also said that public statements by Pendley on the overpopulation of wild horses and burros on federal rangelands raised questions about his “impartiality” on the issue.

“There is a real danger that due to a lack of ethics oversight, sweeping legislative changes will create long lasting consequence to public resources,” the complaint said.

Nancy DiPaolo, an IG spokeswoman, said investigators did their “due diligence on the complaint” but determined there was not enough evidence to support its allegations.

That decision, DiPaolo said, was made Dec. 16 — nearly four months ago.

Leigh of Wild Horse Education told E&E News this week that she had “not received any update, on anything, in months,” and that she was not aware the complaint had been closed.

“Initially, I received two phone calls” from investigators in late November, she said. “I answered questions and provided additional documentation and made suggestions on others they should contact.”

She said she was not surprised when told by E&E News that the complaint had been closed.

“There is no responsibility to the letter, spirit or intent of law,” Leigh said. “Public interest does not mean the general public or the taxpayer anymore; it means corporate cronies.”

She added: “There is no oversight at DOI anymore: nada, zip, zilch.”

BLM said in a statement to E&E News that it is “pleased that the Inspector General has found no merit to this complaint.”

The statement added that Pendley “takes his ethics obligations and commitments very seriously. He has consistently sought and followed the recommendations of senior, caree