Interior Department watchdog says Zinke violated policy on travel

Ryan Zinke.
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Interior Department's inspector general's office has found that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated the department's travel policy by bringing his wife, Lola, on an overseas trip and letting her travel in government vehicles.

In a report released Thursday, the watchdog said Zinke violated additional policies by allowing his unarmed security detail to drive an associate to the airport. The report also said it cost taxpayers $25,000 for the Zinkes to travel with a security detail during a vacation to Turkey last summer. The inspector general's office is conducting at least four investigations into Zinke.

Also on Thursday, Interior Department officials said they never approved the hiring of Suzanne Israel Tuft, a political appointee to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as the Interior Department's acting inspector general, despite HUD Secretary Ben Carson announcing her move last week. This was "100 percent false information," Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement. "Ms. Tufts is not employed by the department and no decision was ever made to move her to Interior."

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Swift confirmed to The Washington Post that Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall is still leading the office, and said that while the White House did refer Tufts to the Interior Department "as a potential candidate" for a position in the inspector general's office, "at the end of the day, she was not offered a job at Interior."

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