Chairwoman Johnson Demands Cooperation from Department of Commerce on Hurricane Dorian OIG Report

Eddie Bernice Johnson

DALLAS (Eddie Bernice Johnson PR) – Today,  Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross regarding the July 1 memorandum sent to Secretary Ross by the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General, Peggy Gustafson. The memo expressed concerns over the Department’s efforts to obstruct the publication of a completed Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, which was provided to the Department on June 26 and due to be published on June 29.

The report examines an unsigned statement issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on September 6, 2019. In the letter sent today, Chairwoman Johnson is demanding the Department cooperate with the OIG’s standard process for clearing completed reports and inform the OIG of any specific areas of privilege in their June 26 report.

Chairwoman Johnson emphasizes in the letter the importance of releasing the OIG report to the American people, which is required by law in the IG Act. If the Department does not cooperate with OIG’s extended deadline, the Chairwoman may utilize compulsory means to secure the report’s publication.

 “The OIG’s request to you is simple: the Department must either assert any specific privilege that it wishes to claim regarding the report, or positively affirm that it does not seek any privilege redactions and will not object to the publication of the unredacted report,” said Chairwoman Johnson in the letter. “Despite the Department’s unwillingness to engage thus far, the OIG has offered to accommodate this process by delaying the deadline for privilege assertion until July 9, 2020. It is imperative that the Department comply with the OIG’s deadline. Without the Department’s cooperation on this matter, the OIG will continue to be hindered in its ability to publicly release the report, which evaluates an incident that is a subject of substantial importance to the public.”

The Chairwoman continued, “If the OIG’s report fails to be released in a reasonable amount of time, the Committee may utilize compulsory means to secure its release to the American people and to determine the nature of the Department’s obstruction. It is my hope that such compulsory steps will not be necessary due to the Department’s cooperation from this point forward.”

Chairwoman Johnson’s statement on Inspector General Peggy Gustafson’s July 1 memo is available here.

A copy of the full letter is available here.