Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson recently announced that Suzanne Israel Tufts, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Administration, was selected to serve as the Department of Interior’s Acting Inspector General (IG), the top internal watchdog overseeing investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Tufts, a Trump administration political appointee with no oversight experience, would replace Mary Kendall, who, as Interior’s Deputy Inspector General, was performing the duties of Acting IG.
CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with HUD for any documents about personnel decisions related to Tufts, including her pay and leave status since December 2017. CREW also requested any documents about her selection for Interior IG and any complaints about Tufts from several specific senior HUD officials.
CREW filed a second FOIA request for communications with any Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency employee about Tufts’ appointment as IG to determine whether the council was notified of her appointment in advance. CREW also filed two FOIAs with Interior for similar documents.
Tufts is a Trump appointee, and will be tasked with exercising independent oversight of Secretary Zinke, who already is under several active investigations that include probes about potential Hatch Act violations, use of taxpayer funds, and censorship of a report. Tufts’ appointment raises concerns given her lack of experience in either government investigations or Interior policies. There are also serious questions about her suitability to serve as acting IG, a role where independence and professionalism are highly important.
The requested records will shed light on the underlying motivation for the Interior IG change. It is in the public interest to know if Tufts was appointed in order to influence the outcome investigations into Secretary Zinke, whether or not she is qualified to oversee them, and whether normal protocols were followed during her appointment.
Read the FOIA requests here: