William Perry Pendley is the third high-ranking administration official that the courts have found likely to be working in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a 1998 law governing how a president may appoint temporary officials.
Mr. Pendley, a former oil-industry lawyer, has ridiculed the established science of climate change and called for the sale of public lands. He has led the agency since August 2019 as “deputy director for programs and policy,” a title that David Bernhardt, the Interior secretary, augmented with, “exercising the authority of director.”
Under Mr. Pendley the bureau has approved dozens of land management plans and expanded oil and gas drilling in several states, including within the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah. He also has spearheaded moving the bureau from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo., which many environmental groups believe is part of an effort to hollow out the agency.
In March, a judge for the United States District Court in Washington declared unlawful the appointment of Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II to lead the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
A different federal judge in Maryland later ruled that Chad F. Wolf is “likely” serving unlawfully as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, a conclusion the Government Accountability Office had arrived at in August.
The court temporarily barred the Trump administration from enforcing new directives Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. Wolf had issued imposing restrictions on asylum seekers.
In each case the administration has responded with defiance.
“We depend on an administration’s willingness to comply with the law, including judicial orders, findings of independent agencies, and congressional demands for information,” said Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at Washington University in St. Louis. “The Trump administration discovered it had a secret superpower, which was that it could fail to comply basically without consequences.”
Farther down the leadership chain, the president’s penchant for filling high-level jobs without Senate confirmation was causing confusion long before the coronavirus pandemic.“Confirmation hearings in the Senate are really important,” said Peter Jenkins, senior counsel for the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.“If they pass and get enough votes, it means they’re mainstream enough to satisfy both sides,” Mr. Jenkins said. By consistently bypassing the law, he said, “You get lower level, unqualified or fringe characters running the bureaus. The employee morale suffers, the performance of the agencies declines and the resources suffer.”
Sorry, it’s a pay site, but I’ve put up most of the meat of the article.
The Hill also has an article on the situation, focusing solely on Pendley