A political ethics watchdog is calling for the Office of the Inspector General to look into possible ethics violations by Nada Culver, a Bureau of Land Management official, alleging a conflict of interest.
Culver’s current role: Culver is serving as acting director of the Bureau of Land and Management, an agency within the Interior Department, which is responsible for administering federal lands.
That same department in April delayed an order that was issued in January by former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and allowed mining and other minerals leasing on a portion of federal land in Alaska. The BLM is currently reviewing land use in Alaska, among other things.
Why it matters? Culver, as her bio page on the BLM websites notes, served as the Vice President, Public Lands and Senior Policy Counsel at the National Audubon Society. While working there, the group lobbied against certain Public Land Orders, including Bernhardt’s order that the agency has now delayed.
Culver is the only official mentioned in several press releases from the agency regarding its review, the Washington Free Beacon reports.
In one press release from April, BLM announced consultations with certain tribes as part of its review into the order and included a statement by Culver which said:
“The BLM will undertake government-to-government Tribal consultation as the first step in its review of five Public Lands Orders signed in January 2021. Consultation with Alaska Native Tribes will give us the best understanding of Tribes’ interests and equities in these lands as we begin our work, and will help inform our efforts to prioritize land selections by Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans. We are committed to moving forward expeditiously with our review, and will issue formal consultation notices within two weeks.”
The complaint: Protect the Public’s Trust, an ethics watchdog, is citing the perceived conflict of interest as the reason it seeks an investigation into Culver. The group wants the inspector general at the agency to probe the matter and determine if she is violating federal law, as well as the Biden administration’s ethics pledge.
The group points to a federal law that “requires appointees to consult with ethics officials and receive approval prior to participating personally and substantially in a matter where a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts would question their impartiality.”
“Absent a waiver from Department ethics officials, this would appear to violate federal ethics laws as well as the Biden Ethics Pledge, which bars political appointees from participating in particular matters related to their former employers and clients,” the watchdog group said in a press release.
“If a high-ranking official like Culver can come in and, as one of her first actions, do her former employer’s bidding, it’s hard for the American public to understand exactly what purpose the impartiality regulations or the Biden Ethics Pledge serve,” said Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust.
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