The Inspector General of the Interior Department just published the results of his investigation int Secretary Ryan Zinke’s chartered flights.
You can read the synopsis below, but it can pretty much be summed up on one statement: “We determined that Zinke’s use of chartered flights in fiscal year (FY) 2017 generally followed relevant law, policy, rules, and regulations.”
We investigated several allegations of travel-related waste by U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke. Our investigation focused on whether Zinke’s use of chartered flights and U.S. military aircraft followed relevant law, policy, rules, and regulations. We also examined the purpose of each trip for which a chartered flight was used to determine whether the DOI had incurred travel expenses for non-DOI-related events and whether the uses and costs of these flights were reasonable or unavoidable. We are reviewing other issues pertaining to Zinke’s travel, including the use of DOI-owned vehicles, in a separate investigation.
We determined that Zinke’s use of chartered flights in fiscal year (FY) 2017 generally followed relevant law, policy, rules, and regulations. We found, however, that a June 2017 trip during which he used a $12,375 chartered flight after speaking at the developmental camp for the Golden Knights, a National Hockey League team in Las Vegas, was reviewed and approved by DOI ethics officials without complete information, and that the use of the chartered flight might have been avoided if the DOI employees who were scheduling Zinke’s trip had worked with the Golden Knights to better accommodate his schedule. We also determined that Zinke had been aware of the Golden Knights event as early as March 7, 2017, and that a grant announcement in nearby Pahrump, NV, was scheduled after Zinke and his staff had already planned to be in Las Vegas for the event. While it was Zinke’s chief of staff, Scott Hommel, who ultimately authorized the trip and the cost of the flight, he said he did so based in part on approval from the Ethics Office.
We also reviewed the costs associated with Zinke’s trips on Air Force One and Air Force Two (AF1 and AF2) and other military aircraft. We found that in FY 2017, the DOI obligated $185,203.75 for Zinke’s flights on these aircraft, including $52,000 for two flights—one on AF1 and one on AF2—that Zinke had been invited on but ultimately did not take. Although Zinke did not fly on these occasions, the White House still billed the DOI for his passage on AF1 and AF2, and the DOI paid the obligations.
We provided this report to the Deputy Secretary of the Interior for any action deemed appropriate.
So it sounds like his schedulers could have done a better job on that one Vegas trip, but other than that it appears he followed the rules.
It is noteworthy in the last big paragraph that the White House still charged Interior for Air Force flights that Zinke ultimately did not take, and the Interior department paid it anyway. This probably wasn’t an intentional mistake, but nonetheless it was a $52,000 dollar mistake and hopefully will be corrected as a result of this report.
If you’d like to read the whole report, you can do so below or at this link: