Snap: Interior bureaucrat quits with blistering letter to Zinke - Must Read Alaska
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Snap: Interior bureaucrat quits with blistering letter to Zinke

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Joel Clement was among the first three dozen to be reassigned in the Department of Interior after Donald Trump became president. Clement was considered part of the “swamp” that was obstructing progress in the nation; he was not aligned with what the president had promised the nation.

Clement was reassigned from being a climate change expert to counting money coming into the Interior Department from oil royalties.

He complained. Loudly and publicly. He threatened.

After all, Clement was part of the Senior Executive Service, a class of federal workers who are hard to fire. Many of them end up feeling entitled to the jobs they have. These are federal workers who also can’t be fired without cause, and they have union protection.

Reassigning members of what is known as the SES had to wait, by law, until Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had been in office for 120 days. Clement and 35 other Interior officials were reassigned on June 28 — 120 days to the day.

This week, Clement had enough of bean counting. He quit his federal job, and sent his blistering resignation letter to the Huffington Post. In it, he calls out Zinke and Trump for “poor leadership” and continues to threaten to make their lives miserable.

“Retaliating against civil servants for raising health and safety concerns is unlawful, but there are many items to add to your resume of failure,” Clement blasted in his letter Zinke, a letter any future potential employer might want to review.

Those failures, Clement said, include “muzzling scientists and policy experts,” conducting an “arbitrary and sloppy review of our treasured National Monuments,” and for altering an Obama-Jewell-era plan for the conserving the greater sage grouse.

“Secretary Zinke, your agenda profoundly undermines the [Interior Department’s] mission and betrays the American people,” wrote Clement, who had worked for Interior seven years. He ended his letter by encouraging Interior Department employees to “resist when necessary.”

KIDS, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME

Clement’s letter, shown below, is a textbook case of what not to do when leaving a job — and is a good indication of why he was not seen as a good fit for the Zinke team:

Secretary Ryan Zinke
U.S. Department of the Interior
Washington, DC
Dear Secretary Zinke, I hereby resign my position as Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).
The career men and women of DOI serve because they believe in DOI’s mission to protect our nation’s natural and cultural resources and they believe that service to this country is a responsibility and an honor. I’m proud to have served at DOI alongside such devoted public servants, and I share their dedication to the mission and country, so it is with a heavy heart that I am resigning as a senior official at the Department.
I have three reasons for my resignation:
Poor Leadership. I blew the whistle on the Trump administration because I believe you unlawfully retaliated against me for disclosing the perilous impacts of climate change upon Alaska Native communities and for working to help get them out of harm’s way. The investigations into my whistleblower complaints are ongoing and I hope to prevail.
Retaliating against civil servants for raising health and safety concerns is unlawful, but there are many more items to add to your resume of failure: You and President Trump have waged an all-out assault on the civil service by muzzling scientists and policy experts like myself; you conducted an arbitrary and sloppy review of our treasured National Monuments to score political  points; your team has compromised tribal sovereignty by limiting programs meant to serve Indians and Alaska Natives; you are undercutting important work to protect the western sage grouse and its habitat; you eliminated a rule that prevented oil and gas interests from cheating taxpayers on royalty payments; you cancelled the moratorium on a failed coal leasing program that was also shortchanging taxpayers; and you even cancelled a study into the health risks of people living near mountaintop removal coal mines after rescinding a rule that would have  protected their health.
You have disrespected the career staff of the Department by questioning their loyalty and you have played fast and loose with government regulations to score points with your political base at the expense of American health and safety. Secretary Zinke, your agenda profoundly undermines the DOI mission and betrays the American people.
Waste of Taxpayer Dollars. My background is in science, policy, and climate change. You reassigned me to the Office of Natural Resources Revenue. My new colleagues were as surprised as I was by the involuntary reassignment to a job title with no duties in an office that specializes in auditing and dispersing fossil fuel royalty income. They acted in good faith to find a role for me, and I deeply appreciate their efforts. In the end, however, reassigning and training me as an auditor when I have no background in that field will involve an exorbitant amount of time and effort on the part of my colleagues, incur significant taxpayer expense, and create a situation in which these talented specialists are being led by someone without experience in their field. I choose to save them the trouble, save taxpayer dollars, and honor the organization by stepping away to find a role more suited to my skills. Secretary Zinke, you and your fellow high-flying Cabinet officials have demonstrated over and over that you are willing to waste taxpayer dollars,  but I’m not.
Climate Change Is Real and It’s Dangerous. I have highlighted the Alaska Native communities on the brink in the Arctic, but many other Americans are facing climate impacts head-on. Families in the path of devastating hurricanes, businesses in coastal communities experiencing frequent and severe flooding, fishermen pulling up empty nets due to warming seas, medical  professionals working to understand new disease vectors, farming communities hit by floods of  biblical proportions, and owners of forestlands laid waste by invasive insects. These are just a few of the impacts Americans face. If the Trump administration continues to try to silence experts in science, health and other fields, many more Americans, and the natural ecosystems upon which they depend, will be put at risk.
The solutions and adaptations to these impacts will be complex, but exponentially less difficult and expensive than waiting until tragedy strikes – as we have seen with Houston, Florida, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico – and there is no time to waste. We must act quickly to limit climate change while also preparing for its impacts.
Secretary Zinke: It is well known that you, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, and President Trump are shackled to special interests such as oil, gas, and mining. You are unwilling to lead on climate change, and cannot be trusted with our nation’s natural resources.  – Joel Clement
So for those three compelling reasons – poor leadership, waste, and your failures on climate change, I tender my resignation. The best use of my skills is to join with the majority of Americans who understand what’s at stake, working to find ways to innovate and thrive despite the many hurdles ahead. You have not silenced me; I will continue to be an outspoken advocate for action, and my voice will be part of the American chorus calling for your resignation so that someone loyal to the interests of all Americans, not just special interests, can take your job.
My thoughts and wishes are with the career women and men who remain at DOI. I encourage them to persist when possible, resist when necessary, and speak truth to power so the institution may recover and thrive once this assault on its mission is over.
Joel Clement
4 October, 2017
Whatever his other merits or demerits may be, Mr. Clement apparently does not suffer the affliction of brevity.
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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Liar. It is not the job of the bureaucrats to “protect our nation’s cultural and natural resources”, rather it is to manage them for the greatest benefit of the nation according to the direction of Congress. Really, they should be in the business of disposing the lands to private ownership since government is least capable of doing anything right.

  • Nice comment Dave Eichler – I agree. I’ve met Joel Clement, the anthropogenic global climate change true believer and priest of his own anti-human agenda – he is even more pompous, arrogant, self-righteous, and imbecilic in person as he is in writing. Glad Secretary Zinke had the courage to shuffle him off where he couldn’t cause harm. Clement is a typical leftist also, stirring up every Alinsky-inspired trick he can to destroy Alaska and drive people out – to say nothing of the rest of the country…

  • Don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split ya. Good riddance of a creature of the SWANP!

  • why do these guys look and act like a bunch of wusses? they are so butt-hurt because Trump won they have unleashed tirades of BS. Coastal Alaska communities have been dealing with flooding and erosion since the 70’s when I lived in Nome, and probably generations before. And as far as waste goes, his SES salary (100K+) after his “hard earned” 7 years of employment can go back into the general fund, bah-bye.

    • Keep singing that same old worn out tired song Regular Guy.

      When the salmon runs begin to dwindle down in numbers, you can point to your precious mine and think it over.

      You wouldn’t have a clue one what a fisheries biologist does over an equipment operator. Keep your closed mind up to date. I wouldn’t want you to miss anything that’s un-important.

      • Dont worry they have the frankenfish for you. Salmon numbers have been low off and on for awhile. Can you say tourism

  • So Long, See Ya! Wouldn’t want to Be Ya!

  • I wonder how Zinke knew so quickly about the disruption of joel clements within the DOI. Could it have been a whistle blower?
    He probably couldn’t even count as an auditor. I can just visualize joel, coffee in hand going office to office attempting to stirring things up on the tax payers tab.

  • Zinke has no ethics and he has no intelligence at all with which to guide the DOI or the employees. All he is, is a war mongering asshat who couldn’t find his way through a forest if the instructions were branded on his ass.

    By the way, I AM a DOI employee and this turd bird is a cheat, a liar and is single minded in his ” conservation” thinking.

    • How are your Obama anger management classes working for you?

  • Welcome to the real world. Entitlement? Entitle this:)

  • Yawn. This fellow was a government employee, nothing more. The Swamp is filled with those that think they have been anointed by the Almighty to lead and control the lives of benighted common citizens. I am confident that this individual will move on to some high position with an NGO or maybe even the Walker Administration. Good for him, but as a US taxpayer, I have no interest in paying his salary.

  • Glade to see this man out of federal service, his agenda was not to work with a multiple use policy, but to destroy that policy as justification of resource management. He is a failure to the rights of the people, who do have a right to discover and recover the natural resources of the public land.

  • The Sage Grouse are doing just fine! They don’t need government interference! I live right in the middle of them and they multiply like rabbits! If those Echo-terrorists were really worried about the Sage Grouse and other critters, they would have made better policies and rules 30-40 years ago regarding our forests in the western USA. The destruction of our wildlife is because of the wildfires. The aftermath of the fires have left nothing for our wildlife to eat and survive for years to come. I’m so tired of those that think they know best how to manage our forests, while sitting at some desk in D.C., or those environmentalists that have never been out of a big city here in the West. We, who live in and who love our forests have watched our forests go from healthy and abundant, to sickly and disseminated over the years, unable to stop it from happening, unable to fight the elites in D.C.!
    I’m glad this person no longer works in our government. One less idiot to tell us how we need to live!

    • Hear, Hear

  • Hear, Hear

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