Monday, September 28, 2020

Acting Bureau of Land Management director has served unlawfully for over a year, federal judge rules

William "Perry" Pendley
"A federal judge in Montana has ordered William Perry Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, to leave the position after finding that he had served unlawfully as acting director for 424 days," Maria Cramer reports for The New York Times. He was also barred from using any authority to make decisions about federal lands, according to the 34-page ruling issued Friday by Judge Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana.

The ruling hits at a core tactic of President Trump, who prefers to appoint directors in a temporary capacity so they don't have to be confirmed by the Senate and are more beholden to Trump for their jobs. The last Senate-confirmed BLM director, Neil Kornze, left in January 2017, Cramer reports. Since then, Trump has appointed five acting directors, with Pendley as the latest one in July 2019. He nominated Pendley to fill the position permanently in July, but soon withdrew the nomination after the move drew attention to Pendley's controversial views about public lands, the environment, and other issues.

However, even after Pendley's name was withdrawn over concerns that he might hurt Republicans in tight Senate races out West, Pendley continued to run the BLM. That violates the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which limits acting officers from serving for more than 210 days without Senate confirmation, the judge ruled. "The ruling also prevented Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who appointed Mr. Pendley, from picking another person to run the bureau," Cramer reports.

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who is in a tight race with Republican incumbent Steve Daines for a Senate seat, filed the lawsuit in July against Pendley and Bernhardt, Cramer reports. His is one of the races most likely to be affected by Pendley's tenure at the BLM. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican also in a tough race, could also be put in a politically inconvenient spot if forced to vote on Pendley's confirmation.

No comments: