The Interior Department’s inspector general has opened an investigative complaint regarding Secretary RyanRyan Zinke’s involvement in a Montana land development deal backed by the chairman of the oil services firm Halliburton, according to a letter sent to three Democratic lawmakers.
In the letter sent to Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), A. Donald McEachin (Va.) and Jared Huffman (Calif.) on Wednesday, Interior Deputy Inspector General Mary L. Kendall said that her office will examine Zinke’s “reported ongoing involvement in and use of taxpayer resources to advance land developments in Whitefish, Montana.” Last week, Politico reported that Zinke has continued to be involved in discussions over the development of land near his hometown that is backed by David J. Lesar, Halliburton’s chairman.
The oil services giant’s operations are directly affected by many of the Interior Department’s policies, including regulations on how oil and gas drilling must be conducted, and which public lands and federal waters are open to exploration and development.
The development, known as 95 Karrow, is set to include shops as well as a microbrewery, which Zinke himself proposed half a dozen years ago. The Zinkes own multiple parcels of land in proximity to the planned project.
Zinke has continued to met with Lesar, his son and the lead project developer, Casey Malmquist, since taking office, according to department records. On Aug. 3, Zinke met with all three men in his office, took them on a private tour of the Lincoln Memorial and had dinner with them.
Malmquist confirmed in an interview with Politico that the group “discussed 95 Karrow at dinner” but not during the office meeting. In an email exchange in September, released under the Freedom of Information Act, Malmquist wrote the secretary about the development and solicited his input on its design…(CONTINUED)