1 of 5 | Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke gets a tour of the top of the Gateway Arch upon his arrival in St. Louis on July 3, 2018. On Wednesday, the inspector general of the Interior Department said Zinke violated ethics rules. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt | License Photo
Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke broke ethics rules while working as part of the Trump administration when he took park in a land negotiation deal in his home state of Montana, a federal watchdog said Wednesday.
Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt said Zinke participated in a real estate development project with a family foundation he founded prior to joining former President Donald Trump's Cabinet. He was involved with negotiations with Halliburton, a Houston-based oil field service company.
The deal involved the design of commercial and residential property in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Mont.
The inspector general said Zinke maintained contact with the developers by email, phone and text after becoming interior secretary. He also allegedly met with the developers in his Interior Department office.
Zinke is also accused of misusing his position in the Trump administration by ordering Interior Department employees to assist him with the project.
The watchdog report said he worked on the deal for nearly a year after becoming interior secretary despite informing the federal government he planned to resign from his family's foundation upon joining the Trump administration.
The report went on to say that Zinke "did not comply with his duty of candor" when the watchdog asked him about his involvement with the foundation and land development deal.
Despite misusing his office, the inspector general found that Zinke didn't violate conflict-of-interest laws because the land development deal didn't involve official government matters.
Zinke, who's running as a Republican for the House of Representatives, criticized the report, saying it "published false information and was shared with the press as a political hit job."
"Only in Biden's corrupt admin is talking to one's neighbor about the town's public meetings and history of the land a sin," he said in a statement according to Axios. "The Zinke family was able to create a free and open space for people to enjoy in Whitefish."
Greenblatt was nominated to be inspector general for the Interior Department by Trump.