CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington— Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and his staff appear to have violated the Federal Records Act (FRA) by intentionally failing to create and maintain documents about the Secretary’s daily schedule as well as details related to meetings with industry lobbyists, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) with the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Interior.
The FRA is a collection of statutes that governs the creation, management and disposal of federal records to ensure Americans have a detailed record of their government’s actions. Among other things, the FRA ensures the “[a]ccurate and complete documentation of the policies and transactions of the Federal Government.”
“[Bernhardt’s] refusal to create records fully documenting his meetings and daily schedules conflicts directly with his duty under the FRA to ‘make and preserve records’ documenting his actions as Secretary of the Interior,” the complaint reads. “Even more troubling, the exclusion of Secretary Bernhardt’s controversial meetings with industry representatives reportedly is intentional. Rather than spell out the details of Secretary Bernhardt’s schedule, his staff ‘intentionally left controversial meetings with representatives of fossil fuel, timber and water interests off his public calendar, citing ‘internal protocol’ governing his schedules’.”
Efforts by Secretary Bernhardt’s staff to systematically subvert their recordkeeping obligations include using a single Google document as Bernhardt’s “personal itinerary” that was regularly overwritten as his schedule was updated. Secretary Bernhardt’s apparently unlawful recordkeeping practices date back to his tenure as Deputy Secretary when details of his meetings for 133 work days were discovered to be missing.