The Interior Department gave Congress an investigation into a land deal made by a former federal appointee with connections to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid on the eve of a major holiday weekend, and did not notify the public of its findings until Tuesday.
The DOI inspector general found Bob Abbey, the former Bureau of Land Management head, stood to personally benefit from the sale of federal land to a developer who wanted to build a sports stadium.
DOI policy requires the agency to report the findings of investigations to the public 30 days after the investigation is closed. But although the DOI brought the findings to a U.S. attorney in September 2015, the agency only reported the findings to the public this week.
The IG found evidence Abbey “stood to benefit personally from the sale” of the land and was “personally and substantially involved in the pre-sale process,” but the Justice Department declined to prosecute.
Two weeks ago DOI’s deputy inspector general said the agency had “recently” began posting the results of investigations on the website 30 days after providing the report to the Department for review, so according to that policy, the Abbey investigation should have been released to the public sooner.
“With a 30- day public release date, we hold the Department accountable for prompt action and provide Congress and the public with more timely notice of our investigative results,” Deputy IG Mary Kendall told Congress in May.
Interior investigators have been looking into the Abbey land deal for years. Abbey, who retired from the BLM in 2012, reportedly tried to use his office to help developer Chris Milam purchase 480 acres of federal land from the BLM in Henderson, Nevada in order to build a sports stadium. Milam would then pay Abbey’s former consulting firm, Abbey Stubbs & Ford LLC a $528,000 if the sale was successful.
But the land sale never went through. Milam was sued by Clark County and settled in 2013 “on the conditions that he would pay the City $4,500,000; that he would never do business in Henderson again; and that his investors would replace him in the land sale process,” according to the IG.