Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has repeatedly discounted the importance of diversity within his agency, CNN reported on Monday.
Three unnamed sources told CNN that he recently made statements disregarding a need for staff diversity, saying he would just pick the best people for the jobs.
These comments come in the wake of Zinke’s controversial staff reorganization in June, when he unexpectedly reassigned 33 senior staffers to different jobs. Fifteen of those employees are minorities, one of the staffers’ lawyers told CNN. Those actions are currently under investigation by the offices of the Inspector General and the Special Counsel, according to CNN.
In a statement, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift denied the report. “As a woman who has worked for him for a number of years in senior positions, I say without a doubt this claim is untrue, and I am hopeful that they are a result of a misunderstanding and not a deliberate mistruth,” she said to CNN.
Swift did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.