Joel Clement, the Department of the Interior’s former Director of Policy Analysis, filed a whistleblower disclosure form and a formal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel regarding the alleged treatment of scientists, like himself, by the Trump administration. He claims the current administration is reassigning personnel to unrelated jobs as a form or retaliation.
As reported by the Washington Post, Clement was the top policy official working for the Department of the Interior until last week. He has since been reassigned and is now a senior adviser working for the Office of Natural Resources within the same department of the government.
Clement refers to himself as a “scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen.” He also now takes the stance of “whistleblower” against an administration he says “chooses silence over science.”
For nearly seven years, Clement has worked for the Department of the Interior, focused largely on assisting Alaska Native communities looking to “prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.”
On June 15, Clement states he was “one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments.”
Clement asserts the reason for the reassignments was an effort by decision-makers designed to “improve talent development, mission delivery, and collaboration.” However, Clement suggests the transition was a form of retaliation for speaking out regarding climate change.
Clement was reassigned to a position “in the accounting office.” His duties involve collecting “royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.”
He asserts, “I am not an accountant,” and suggests a “reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up.” He also references testimony before Congress on the part of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that stated the “department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees.” Clement infers that such testimony shows the department’s intention to use transfers as a method of encouraging employees to quit based on their assignment to “ill-fitting jobs.”
Clement says, “I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities.” He admits to discussing climate change issues with officials in the White House as well those in the Department of the Interior. He has also spoken on the topic to the larger international community, including a recent UN conference held in June.
He believes the Trump administration was “uncomfortable with this work” and that he was reassigned as an attempt to “coerce me into leaving the federal government.”
Clement filed two forms with the US Office of Special Counsel regarding the involuntary reassignment, stating that “eliminating my role coordinating federal engagement and leaving my former position empty exacerbate the already significant threat to the health and the safety of certain Alaska Native communities.” He also says the complaint was filed based on the assertion that “Trump administration clearly retaliated against me for raising awareness of this danger.”
The Office of Special Counsel will evaluate the information provided by Clement. If “sufficient information” is present regarding Clement’s assertions, the details are referred to the head of the associated agency for investigation.