Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Interior Department won't talk about rumors of more employee reassignments

Is Secretary Ryan Zinke about to unleash another round of employee reassignments at the pirate ship better known as the Department of the Interior?

That's the rumor floating around the galleys but the department won't talk about it, The Washington Post reports. In a controversial move, Zinke already ordered dozens of senior employees to new planks, including the top three Indian Affairs officials.

Those reassignments are being investigated by the Office of Inspector General who is working “to determine if the U.S. Department of the Interior followed appropriate guidelines and best practices in the reassignment of Senior Executive Service employees,” a spokesperson told The Post.

Of the three Indian Affairs officials who were reassigned, Mike Black, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, remains in his post as the "acting" Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. He has held the title since January 20, when President Donald Trump took office.

Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk, a citizen of the Fort Peck Tribes, stayed in his post as director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for a couple of months after his reassignment. He now works as a deputy within the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians.

Debra L. DuMontier, who is affiliated with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, temporarily served as the "acting" Special Trustee for American Indians. She's since been replaced by Jerry Gidner, a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

Participants in the Senior Executive Service program within the federal government are often required to shift jobs when needed. But Democrats in Congress say Zinke's reassignments -- an incident being called the "Thursday night massacre" because affected employees were first informed via email on the evening of Thursday, June 15 -- were unprecedented.

Black and Loudermilk had spent that week at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference in Connecticut serving as the public face of the new administration before they were told about their moves. They took repeated criticism from tribal leaders for lacking information about the Trump team's plans for Indian Country.

Black, Loudermilk, DuMontier and Gidner are among the few Native Americans in the SES program. According to the Office of Personnel and Management, only 32 American Indians and Alaska Natives were represented in 2014.

"There are not enough Native Americans in the Federal government, particularly in the Senior Executive Service. I want to change that," Gidner said in a 2014 biography provided to the Society of American Indian Government Employees.

Read More on the Story:
Zinke says his workers are disloyal. They say his personnel moves break the law. (The Washington Post September 27, 2017)
Trump’s Interior secretary goes to war — against his own department (Slate September 28, 2017)

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