A former Interior Department solicitor nominated for a federal
judgeship may have seen a controversial grazing settlement
while it was being negotiated, according to the Wyoming rancher
at the center of the controversy.
The rancher's allegations about the role played by William
Myers, President Bush's nominee to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals, runs counter to conclusions reached by the Interior
Department's inspector general and Myers' testimony last month
before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The allegations were raised in a 12-page memorandum <http://www.communityrights.org/Budd-FalenMyersResponse.pdf>
written by an attorney for Wyoming rancher Frank Robbins.
The memo includes references to Myers receiving information
about the controversial deal, as well as a fax cover sheet
showing Myers was sent a copy of the negotiated agreement
several weeks before it was approved.
At issue is whether Myers had a role in a 2002 Interior agreement
absolving Robbins from penalties associated with 16 violations
of grazing laws and limiting future enforcement for similar
violations. The deal -- which was widely criticized by environmental
groups who charged it was put in place because of Robbins'
political connections -- was later voided by Interior.
The allegations could provide further ammunition to Senate
Democrats and environmentalists who want to block Myers' nomination
for the second consecutive year. Myers' nomination also could
be the first test for the "nuclear option," if Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) attempts to implement
a rule change to end filibusters to block judicial nominees.
At least one member of the Judiciary Committee is calling
for an investigation of Myers' role in the grazing deal. "The
allegations raised by Mr. Robbins' attorney directly contradict
Mr. Myers' written response to a question I submitted,"
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said yesterday. "The Judiciary
Committee should investigate these allegations immediately."
Myers told the committee last month he had no prior knowledge
of the controversial settlement and had not read the document
before it was signed. "I was not involved in the negotiations
or discussion of that settlement, other than to tell the subordinate
attorney that he had authority to settle that case,"
In February, Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney said
the department's attorneys and other senior officials circumvented
normal procedures by withholding information from their superiors.
But Devaney said Myers was not involved.
"To the contrary, a fair reading of the report,"
Devaney said, "would suggest that Myers was, in fact,
victimized when he was given a distorted explanation by one
of his senior associate solicitors."
But the memorandum from Robbins' Kansas-based attorney, Marc
Stimpert, takes aim at Devaney's investigation and conclusions.
"Devaney's report is extremely biased, and intentionally
or negligently fails to report the relevant facts," the
memo says. "Devaney either intentionally or negligently
failed to investigate facts contrary to the conclusions articulated
in his report, or knowingly failed to include such facts in
order to reach his incorrect conclusions. Either way, his
report should be disregarded as blatantly biased and false,
and his conduct in this matter should be investigated."
Stimpert said the memo "was sent out to some folks with
the intent of telling the truth and so anyone who wanted to
know the truth could see it." Stimpert said his client
supported the distribution of the document.
The memo alleges "all relevant parties" in the
Interior and Justice departments were kept informed about
all aspects of the negotiations and that Devaney failed to
report wrongdoing by the Worland, Wyo., Bureau of Land Management
Stimpert's law firm released a cover sheet of a fax sent
to Myers and other officials on Nov. 13, 2002 -- several weeks
before the agreement was signed -- asking if "anyone
[has] any other changes to the Robbins' settlement agreement."
"Thus, all of these parties had full knowledge of the
Settlement Agreement an all of its terms," the memo says.
Officials from groups opposing Myers' court nomination say
the new information raises serious questions about his actions
at Interior before leaving the solicitor's office in October
"One of the parties intimately involved in the Robbins
settlement has contradicted the core of Mr. Myers' defense
that he was out of the settlement negotiations loop,"
said Doug Kendall, executive director of the Community Rights
Counsel. "All of that raises questions about whether
he was in the Robbins settlement and how much he knows about
the Robbins settlement before it was entered."
Click here <http://www.communityrights.org/Budd-FalenMyersResponse.pdf>
to download the memo.
Click here <http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/Backissues/images/022305gwr1.pdf>
to download the February IG report. (CRC NOTE: Reader must
have subscription service to view the EENews PDF).