ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A former federal Bureau of Land Management official who worked in New Mexico took gifts, meals and golf tickets in his position without properly reporting them in a possible violation of the law, a U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General report concluded.
The report made public this week said Steve Henke may have violated agency policy, codes of ethics and federal laws with his actions and also may have encouraged witnesses to lie to inspectors looking into allegations.
Henke served as district manager of the bureau’s Farmington Field Office before taking a top job with New Mexico’s largest oil and gas trade organization in 2010. He had long been a target of environmental advocacy groups who criticized his decisions at the BLM, and who expressed anger after he became the leader of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.
The long-buried report was first reported by the trade publication Greenwire this week.
Henke told The Associated Press on Friday he stood by his record at the agency and believed the report “lacked depth.”
Asked if he did anything wrong during this time at the Bureau of Land Management, Henke said, “I didn’t say that.”
However, Henke called the Inspector General report “Monday morning quarterbacking” and said it was a result of “radical environmentalists” who tried to use the court system to overturn decisions he made. He also denied lying to inspectors or encouraging anyone to lie. “I take exception that I asked people to lie to inspectors,” Henke said.
Henke recently retired from the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.
According to the report dated Feb. 25, 2013, the Office of Inspector General found no evidence that violated conflict of interest law by taking a position at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. Yet, the report said he may have violated policies and other laws by accepting gifts and meals from outside sources.
Henke “provided false information to investigators and may have attempted to obstruct OIG’s investigation by influencing other witnesses,” the report said.
The U.S. Attorney General’s Office in New Mexico declined to take any action against Henke.
Allison Sandoval, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico, told The Santa Fe New Mexican this week (http://goo.gl/CZKZKF) that the bureau has policies in place that prohibit such behavior.
“We didn’t know that he was accepting improper gifts (while he was still employed by the BLM), so there were no actions we could take at the time,” she said.
Chris Saeger, director of the Western Values Project, told the New Mexican that the report “absolutely blurs the lines” between agencies like the BLM “and the people they’re supposed to protect.”