E&E News reporter
BLM official’s ouster not ‘a disciplinary action’
The mystery continues to deepen surrounding the reasons why the Bureau of Land Management last week removed its top law enforcement official and placed him indefinitely on administrative leave.BLM relieved William Woody of his post atop the Office of Law Enforcement and Security (OLES) in a June 11 letter signed by Casey Hammond, the Interior Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management, who is currently serving as a de facto acting bureau director.
Hammond gave the letter he signed to Woody the next day at Interior’sWashington, D.C., headquarters. After surrendering his firearm and badge, Woody was escorted out of the building, according to sources with knowledge of the situation (Greenwire, June 17).
Hammond’s letter, which was provided to E&E News by a confidential source, said that the decision to place Woody on indefinite administrative leave “is not a disciplinary action and is not intended to be punitive.”
But Hammond writes in his letter that Woody is currently the subject of “ongoing investigations” and that administrative leave is appropriate “to allow the Department of the Interior, Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General, and the Bureau of Land Management to work diligently to conclude” these investigations.
The wording of the letter suggests that Interior ultimately plans to transfer him to another position, either within BLM or Interior, or at another federal agency.
Woody’s Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Katherine Atkinson, confirmed that Hammond is the one who signed it and verified the accuracy of the sections read to E&E News.
Atkinson also confirmed that the reason given by Hammond for the decision to place him on administrative leave is Woody’s use of a “government-owned vehicle” he was issued to commute to and from work.
An Interior inspector general’s report last year concluded that Woody used the vehicle “for home-to-work commuting without authorization” for nearly a year, between July 2017 and June 2018.
Woody did not obtain a so-called vehicle domicile form authorizing his use of the government vehicle — a 2017 Ford Taurus — when he returned to BLM in 2017 after a six-year stint as chief of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.
Hammond’s letter cited only the IG’s investigation as the reason for placing him on administrative leave. But he wrote that this is “serious” in nature. That appears to stem from the fact that Woody “acknowledged” to investigators that he knew he “should have obtained approval before using the” vehicle.”
“Consistent with the findings of the OIG, I find that your presence in the workplace during the investigation period, and any advanced written notice period of proposed adverse action, if any, will jeopardize legitimate Agency interests,” Hammond wrote.