This West Is OUR West

Law enforcement capers and Forest Service job corps forever

By Frank DuBois

Unlawful law enforcement

Marjorie Haun at Free Range Report broke the story that on June 13, William Woody, director of BLM’s Office of Law Enforcement Services (OLES), had his gun and badge stripped from him and that he was escorted out of the Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington D.C.

Woody had previously worked for BLM, was then transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and then transferred back to the BLM in 2017. According to Haun’s source, Woody was pushed out of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service “amid allegations of lavish travel spending and arbitrary pay hikes of all agents under his supervision.”

Haun reports that Woody, “reportedly buys the loyalty (and silence) of his agency underlings with unwarranted promotions and fat salaries. According to our informant he is in the process of upgrading all his 60-odd investigators from GS-12’s to GS-13’s.  With their special salary rate included, that’s a $17,347 raise per person. He also promoted 15 or so supervisory investigators, all earning $128,882 as GS-14’s ($19,817 raise) and two additional GS-15’s, who received a $22,718 raise, which equates to an expenditure of $1,383,511 in additional tax dollars spent each year.”

Haun also informs us of other Woody activities over the years that have caused concern: overruling a senior law enforcement official on a hiring decision so he could bring in a female with whom he reportedly had a “relationship”; misuse of a government vehicle while working in D.C.; illegally hiring a female staffer at a top federal pay grade to handle his public relations disasters; and extensive and unnecessary travel for meetings, often with with large groups, and visits to sportsman’s shows and other unofficial activities.

You will remember Dan Love (extravagant expenses at Burning Man and the abuses and bungling of the Bundy case) and how pleased we were when he was removed from office by former Secretary Zinke. Well not so fast. Haun reports that Woody, “helped Dan Love receive a medical retirement instead of being fired.”

I have a copy of the memo to William Woody, signed by Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. It is dated June 11, 2019 and only mentions the use of a government-owned vehicle for home-to-work commuting from July of 2017 to June of 2018. It states this was done without authorization and that Woody knew he needed approval to do this and acknowledged that he had not done so. Further Hammond states, “I find your presence in the workplace during the investigation period…will jeopardize legitimate Agency interests” and placed him on paid administrative leave.

The Office of the Inspector General has already highlighted the government vehicle issue, so no one seems to know what the “ongoing investigations” are mentioned by Hammond in the memo. Many folks with experience at Interior believe there must be something else going on, beyond the vehicle use.

What is clear to me is that the BLM has chosen to create a huge law enforcement bureaucracy that goes beyond the original intent of Congress. Section 303(c)(1) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act states:

“When the Secretary determines that assistance is necessary in enforcing Federal laws and regulations relating to the public lands or their resources he shall offer a contract to appropriate local officials having law enforcement authority within their respective jurisdictions with the view of achieving maximum feasible reliance upon local law enforcement officials in enforcing such laws and regulations.”

Please note the maximum feasible reliance upon local law enforcement officials. Does anyone believe the BLM has complied with this language? How much of the annual law enforcement budget is actually contracted out to local officials? Considering the example after example of mismanagement and abuse that has occurred, it is time the Department of Interior get this beast under control and the quickest way to do that is to comply with the clear intent of Congress.

Smokey and the welfare bandits

In late May, Secretary of Agriculture Perdue announced the USDA had decided to end a U.S. Forest Service work program that trains at-risk youth. The program — known for operating the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers — was to be transferred to the Labor Department. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christianson told employees, “Perdue has a goal of efficient and effective government,” adding that the secretary believes the mission of the program better aligns with the Labor Department. In a letter to the Labor Department, Perdue wrote the move would help the Forest Service prioritize its “core natural resource mission to improve the condition and resilience of our nation’s forests, and step away from activities and programs that are not essential to that core mission.” As part of the move, nine of the 25 job corps centers were to be shut down.

Hooray for Secretary Perdue.

I've had personal experience with this program, as they built a trick tank on our allotment.

First, there was the Forest Service. We asked they put the trick tank on a ridge where we could have gravity flow in all directions. Instead, the Forest Service had them place the tank where the flow was in only one direction. Thus began a huge waste of resources.

Then there was the construction of the trick tank, which seemed like it took forever. We noticed there was never the same number of job corps members at the worksite. We also took note that of those present, not all of them worked. Some would be sitting under a tree, while others remained in the government van that had brought them there. Finally, my cousin asked the foreman why this was the case. He replied that it was totally up to each job corps member whether or not they left their rooms in Mountainair and reported for work on any particular day. He also said that after they reached the worksite, it was up to each job corps member if they worked the full day, a few hours or not at all.

This was my first exposure as a youngster to a government jobs program. And here we are six decades later with essentially the same wasteful entity.

Alas, as I finish writing this column, Secretary Perdue has withdrawn his proposal for further review. The Trump administration received pushback on the issue from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and the labor union that represents Forest Service employees.

Republicans have joined with unions to prevent “efficient and effective” government. No wonder we are in such a mess at the national level. We have gravity flow in only one direction – more spending and more waste.

Until next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation