Washington, DC - Contrary to his sworn Senate testimony, industry
lobbyist and controversial judicial nominee William Myers
may have been aware of the terms of an improper settlement
reached with a politically connected Wyoming rancher, according
to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER) and Community Rights Counsel (CRC).
The two groups are asking the Senate Judiciary Committee
to investigate further, including questioning one of Myers'
former subordinates at the Interior Solicitor's Office.
Myers was the controversial former Solicitor for the Department
of Interior who has been nominated by President Bush to serve
on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
At issue is whether Myers was truthful when he repeatedly
assured the Senate that he was not briefed and "did not
know" the terms of the controversial settlement with
a Wyoming rancher that was subsequently criticized by the
Interior Office of Inspector General.
According to the rancher's attorney, Myers was fully informed
on the progress and key terms by his hand-picked subordinate,
Robert Comer, the Regional Solicitor for the Rocky Mountain
Region. In further support of her contention that Myers was
in the loop, the rancher's attorney, Karen Budd-Falen, has
provided a fax directed to Myers, among others, attaching
a draft of the Robbins agreement.
One of the controversies about the settlement was its exclusion
of a lawsuit by the rancher against federal employees accusing
them of racketeering, under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt
Organization Act (RICO). Myers has contended that he was unaware
of this provision and the Interior Office of Inspector General
maintains Comer misled Myers on this point.
In a rebuttal prepared by Budd-Falen, she wrote:
"[The OIG] Report assumes that Comer failed to inform
his superiors of the status and issues and positions in
the Settlement Agreement, including the RICO issue. This
is simply not the case
Due to Roberts' [the Assistant
U.S. Attorney] repeated insistence that the RICO case not
be included in the Settlement Agreement, it was eventually
removed by Comer
[Interior and Department of Justice
officials] and Bill Myers (Solicitor for the Department
of Interior) were all notified of this change." (citations
"Who is telling the truth, Bill Myers or his trusted
aide?" asked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who filed
the complaint sparking the OIG investigation. "The Senate
should hear what Regional Solicitor Comer has to say before
it casts a vote on a lifetime appointment for Bill Myers to
serve on one of the highest courts in the land."
"This new evidence suggests Myers was in the loop when
this deal was cut," said Doug Kendall, CRC's Executive
Director. "It suggests that a central part of Mr. Myers'
Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was false. Plainly there
needs to be an investigation of these developments."
The settlement agreement virtually immunized the rancher
from penalties for grazing violations and left Interior's
own employees in legal jeopardy. It was subsequently rescinded.
Myers has defended his role in the imbroglio by maintaining
that he was not informed about the status or terms of the
letter from PEER and the Community Rights Counsel asking the
Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate further. You
can also view the letter in PDF
the memo from Karen Budd-Falen, attorney for the rancher
View the fax
transmittal sheet from Comer to Myers attaching the Robbins
settlement draft (PDF)
See Myers' answers
to Robbins questions from members of the Senate Judiciary
Look at relevant
portions of Myers' previous testimony before the Senate Judiciary
Learn more about Myers' role in infamous grazing
more information about Myers and the Robbins settlement
more about Myers, including various media articles and newspaper
against the nomination