A scientist at the Department of the Interior
says the Trump administration retaliated against him for speaking out in defense of Alaska Native communities.
Joel Clement was among dozens of senior employees who were suddenly reassigned
to new positions last month. Writing for The Washington Post, he said he filed whistle-blower complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel
"I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities," Clement wrote for The Post. "During the months preceding my reassignment, I raised the issue with White House officials, senior Interior officials and the international community, most recently at a U.N. conference in June. It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government."
has defended the reassignments, which he issued as soon as he was allowed to do so under federal law. They affect participants in the Senior Executive Service
program, where it's common for officials to be shifted around to different positions.
The reassignments affect the three top Indian Affairs officials at Interior. Mike Black, the acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk, the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
, and Debra L. DuMontier, the acting Special Trustee for American
, were all offered different positions as the department undertakes a "bold"
, the plans for which have not been communicated to tribal leaders.
But as of this week, Black, who is a citizen of the Oglala Sioux
, is still serving as the acting Assistant Secretary. Loudermilk, who is a citizen of the Fort Peck Tribes
, is also still in his job as director of the BIA, a post he took last November
The reassignments offer some time for recipients to respond so it's possible Black and Loudermilk might be moving to new positions sometime soon. Also affected is Debra L. DuMontier, the acting Special Trustee for American
The Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs is a political post. President
has yet to nominate someone for the job, something his two
predecessors had already accomplished by this time in their first terms in
The Special Trustee is also a political job. The BIA director post, on the other hand, is held by a career employee at the agency.
"Removing a civil servant from his area of expertise and putting him in a job where he’s not needed and his experience is not relevant is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars," Clement wrote for The Post.
Clement's prior title was was director of the Office of Policy Analysis at Interior, whose website appears to have been shut down
by the Trump team. He's now a senior adviser at the Office of Natural Resources Revenue
, which deals with energy development, a priority of the new administration.
"The Alaska Native villages of Kivalina, Shishmaref and Shaktoolik are perilously close to melting into the Arctic Ocean," Clement wrote. "In a region that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the land upon which citizens’ homes and schools stand is newly vulnerable to storms, floods and waves. As permafrost melts and protective sea ice recedes, these Alaska Native villages are one superstorm from being washed away, displacing hundreds of Americans and potentially costing lives. The members of these communities could soon become refugees in their own country."
Read More on the Story:
Joel Clement: I’m a scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration.
(The Washington Post 7/19)
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