Though his agency was charged with coordinating the federal response to the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Department of the Interior chief of staff Tom Strickland was in the Grand Canyon with his wife last week participating in activities that included white-water rafting, ABC News has learned.
Other leaders of the Interior Department were focused on the Gulf, joined by other agencies and literally thousands of other employees. But Strickland’s participation in a trip that administration officials insisted was “work-focused” raised eyebrows among other Obama administration officials and even within even his own department, sources told ABC News.
Strickland, who also serves as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, was in the Grand Canyon with his wife Beth for a total of three days, including one day of rafting. Beth Strickland paid her own way, Obama administration officials said.
The Stricklands departed for the Grand Canyon three days after the leaks in the Deepwater Horizon pipeline were discovered. Ultimately, after the government realized that the spill was worse than had been previously thought, officials decided that Strickland was needed in the Gulf so Strickland was taken out of the Grand Canyon by a National Park Service helicopter.
One government official, asking for anonymity because of the political sensitivities involved, told ABC News that some Interior Department employees thought it was “irresponsible” for Strickland to have gone on the trip, given the crisis in the Gulf, which was fully apparent at the time he departed for the Grand Canyon.
When asked about Strickland’s trip, Interior Department press secretary Kendra Barkoff told ABC News that “the federal government has been all over this issue from day one in a unified coordinated response.”
Nothing to see here folks, move along.
Sure, it's a "unified coordinated response". At least with the staff that could be bothered to address the issue.
I will give credit to ABC for airing this. With that said though, think you'd be hearing more about this if it were Brownie white water rafting with his wife during Katrina?