Former climate official says details surrounding his reassignment look “damning” for Trump admin

Joel Clement thinks his job reassignment was retaliation. (Photo courtesy of Joel Clement)

A new federal report sheds some light on how job reassignments in the Department of the Interior were handled last year.

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Joel Clement resigned from the agency in October after being ousted from his position working on issues like coastal resilience and village relocation in Alaska.

Clement felt targeted by the Trump Administration for his views on climate change, and he thinks this report helps back that up.

There wasn’t much of a paper trail to show Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s motivation for reassigning dozens of career officials last summer.

An internal investigation found that the board responsible for those reassignments didn’t maintain meeting minutes, notes, voting or decision records. There wasn’t a person responsible for documenting it.

“It’s a very damning report,” Clement said.  “It demonstrates the kind of chaos and incompetence at play.”

Clement was reassigned to accounting duties at the office of oil and gas royalties, which he says was much different than the job he had before: Coordinating federal efforts to help move eroding villages in Alaska.

Clement believes the Trump Administration is trying to erase positions that have anything to do with climate change.

Clement says the report from the Office of Inspector General points to that lack of transparency.

“But what it doesn’t do is look back and say, ‘how do they make this right with these executives who were either discriminated against or retaliated against?’” Clement said.

The Deputy Director of Interior responded to the report, saying “delays in confirming key presidential appointments” could be responsible for guidelines not being followed. The report outlines recommendations, like keeping records on plans for reassigning senior executives.

Clement’s old position still hasn’t been filled. He acknowledges village relocation efforts are still underway. The Denali Commission is set to receive $15 million dollars to help move the village of Newtok.

“I think the fact that my position wasn’t filled and other programs were not being enacted made it clear that the administration was dropping the ball, ” Clement said. “And Congress had to pick this up.”

Next, he hopes Congress holds the Department of the Interior accountable. He would like to see a congressional hearing on the job reassignments.