Zinke Failed to Document for Use of Private Jets, Watchdog Says

(Bloomberg) -- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke failed to properly document his use of private jets and whether his wife paid her way when accompanying him on official travel, the agency’s watchdog said.

A memo from the department’s inspector general comes in response to a probe of travel on charter jets by Zinke, including trips to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alaska and Montana, his home state. 

"We have found the documentation and adherence to department travel policies deficient," the memo to Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt said. "We discovered several issues that need prompt attention and changes to current IOS procedures."

Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall also wrote that she has "not been able to determine the full extent" to which Zinke’s wife, Lolita Zinke, accompanied him on travel and paid for her trips.

Zinke and other members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet face criticism for flying on private or military charter jets, and the costs of that travel. 

"Our investigation has been delayed by absent, or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips and a review process that failed to include proper documentation and accountability," the memo, dated Nov. 15, said.

Zinke has dismissed scrutiny of his travel as "a little B.S.," and said all his travel has been reviewed by ethics officers.

Bernhardt, in a letter Thursday responding to the memo, pledged full cooperation and to provide any missing documents. 

"I inherited an organizational and operational mess from the previous administration," he wrote. "From my perspective, regarding IOS travel procedures, it appears that the exact same procedures and processes utilized by the previous administration remain in place and continue to be dysfunctional."

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