Watchdog: Ex-Home Secretary Zinke broke ethics rules with land deal

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke walks around the top of the Gateway Arch upon his arrival in St. Louis July 3, 2018. The Interior Department inspector general on Wednesday said Zinke violated the rules of ‘ethics. File photo by Bill Greenblatt | License picture

February 16 (UPI) — Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke ethics rules while working in the Trump administration when he pulled into a land negotiation deal in his home state of Montana , a federal watchdog said Wednesday.

Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt noted Zinke was involved in a real estate development project with a family foundation he founded before joining former President Donald Trump’s cabinet. He was involved in negotiations with Halliburton, a Houston-based oil services company.

The deal involved the design of a commercial and residential property in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont.

The inspector general said Zinke maintained contact with developers via email, phone and text after becoming home secretary. He also reportedly met the developers at his Home Office office.

Zinke is also accused of abusing his position in the Trump administration by ordering Interior Department employees to help him with the project.

The watchdog’s report said he worked on the deal for almost a year after becoming Home Secretary when he informed the federal government that he planned to resign from the founding of his family by joining the Trump administration.

The report went on to say that Zinke “failed to live up to his duty of candor” when the watchdog questioned him about his involvement in the foundation and land development deal.

Although he abused his office, the inspector general found that Zinke did not violate conflict of interest laws because the land development agreement did not involve formal government matters.

Zinke, who is running as a Republican for the House of Representatives, criticized the report, saying it “published false information and was shared with the press as a political success.”

“Only in Biden’s corrupt administration is talking to his neighbor about town hall meetings and the country’s history a sin,” he said in a statement according to Axios. “The Zinke family was able to create a free and open space for people to enjoy at Whitefish.”

Greenblatt was appointed Inspector General of the Department of the Interior by Trump.

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