In a highly unusual move, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary for the Office of Administration Suzanne Israel Tufts was moved to the Interior Department to serve as acting inspector general overseeing four investigations into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conduct.
The move was first reported by The Hill.
According to a report from The Washington Post, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced the move to agency staffers via email on Friday, taking lawmakers and officials at the Interior Department by surprise.
“The Office of Inspector General has received no official communication about any leadership changes,” Nancy DiPaolo, a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office, said in a statement.
The position of inspector general at the Interior Department has been vacant for roughly 10 years and is a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position, meaning any news of the change would come from the White House.
So far, the White House has provided no such news.
According to the Post, a HUD spokesperson said Tuft’s move is temporary, but the email from Carson said Tuft was leaving.
This shuffle is causing some to cry foul and is raising eyebrows in suspicion of corruption.
Elizabeth Hempowicz, director of public policy for the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, told The Post that Tufts’ appointment is “politically suspect, given the high-profile investigations involving Zinke.”
“Why replace an acting Inspector General with a political appointee who has no government oversight experience?” she asked.
“If the administration wants someone to replace the current acting watchdog, the White House should nominate someone for the post and they should go through the Senate confirmation process,” Hempowicz added.