Mike Black, seated, and Bruce Loudermilk are among dozens of senior officials at the Department of the Interior have been told to change jobs by the Trump administration. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Secretary Zinke's 'Thursday night massacre' at Interior under internal investigation

NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect the new position of Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk at the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

The Office of Inspector General at the Department of the Interior has opened a probe into the Trump administration's sudden reassignments of dozens of top officials, The Washington Post reports.

The top three Indian Affairs officials at Interior were among the dozens told to change jobs, The Post reported back in June. The incident has referred to as the "Thursday night massacre" because affected employees were first informed via email on the evening of Thursday, June 15, according to The New York Times.

"We believe that any reassignment of highly trained, highly competent senior executives within the Department from the positions in which they may best use their training and competence to accomplish the Department’s mission and best serve the public interest to sinecures where their talents are wasted would constitute a serious act of mismanagement, a gross waste of public funds, and an abuse of authority," a group of Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which exercises jurisdiction over Interior, wrote in a July 24 letter requesting an investigation.

Secretary Ryan Zinke and other top officials have defended the reassignments. They note that participants in the Senior Executive Service program within the federal government are often required to shift jobs when needed.

"Personnel moves among the Senior Executive Service are being conducted to better serve the taxpayer and the Department’s operations," Interior said in a statement to The Post.

The three Indian Affairs employees who received reassignment notices in June were 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 Indians. Black and Loudermilk had spent the week at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference in Connecticut serving as the public face of the new administration when they were told about their moves.

Yet Black, who is a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, remains in his position as the "acting" Assistant Secretary three months later. A spokesperson for the BIA has been unable to comment on his status because it's considered a personnel issue.

Loudermilk, who is a citizen of the Fort Peck Tribes, stayed in the director position for a couple of months but has since started working at the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, a spokesperson for the BIA said on Wednesday. He had been named to the BIA post in November, succeeded Black in that role.

The same doesn't apply to DuMontier, who is a affiliated with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The Trump team has named Jerry Gidner, a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, as the "acting" leader of the Office of the Special Trustee.

Read More on the Story:
Interior’s ‘unusual’ transfer of senior executives spurs official probe (The Washington Post September 12, 2017)

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