Trump's Interior Department head Ryan Zinke is out. Here are the ethics probes that plagued the controversial secretary.

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesInterior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee March 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zinke testified on the proposed FY2019 budget for the Interior Department.
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is stepping down, President Donald Trump announced Saturday.
  • Trump said Zinke would be leaving at the end of the year and his replacement would be announced next week.
  • Zinke is at the center of several ethics probes, including misuse of taxpayer money, promoting projects to further his political interests, and the stifling of climate change research.

President Donald Trump announced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would be leaving the administration by the end of the year. Zinke has been the subject of more than a dozen ethics inquiries into his time at the head of the department.

Here are the active investigations into Zinke:

Real estate and microbrewery deal with an oil executive

In June, the inspector general opened an investigation into Zinke’s a land deal with David J. Lesar, the chairman of Halliburton, an oil services company whose operations are directly affected by Interior Department policies.

The deal included plans for a hotel, retail shops and a microbrewery that were partially backed by a foundation previously headed by Zinke and now headed by Zinke’s wife.

The inspector general’s probe is focusing on “involvement in and use of taxpayer resources to advance land developments” and whether or not Zinke improperly spent taxpayer money for travel for the deal.

Potential Hatch Act violation: Florida drilling exemptions

Zinke announced that Florida would be exempt from the Trump administration’s plans for an offshore drilling expansion alongside Florida Governor Rick Scott at a January press conference.

Watchdog groups immediately deemed the announcement an attempt to boost Scott’s expected Senate run. Reports in following months found evidence that Trump administration officials had planned for Scott’s victory.

OSC confirmed to CNN in April it opened a file on the issue.

Blocked Native American casino proposal after meeting with MGM lobbyists

The Interior Department blocked a casino project proposed by two Native America tribes, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot, after Zinke met with lobbyists from MGM Resorts, who opposed the Native American casinos.

The rejection was later found to be against the advice of federal experts from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In a lawsuit, the tribes said the decision “was the product of improper political influence.”

The Inspector General is conducting the investigation.

Alleged censorship of climate change research

A National Park Service report deleted any mention of humanity’s role in climate change shortly after Zinke testified to Congress that he would not censor scientific reports.

The Inspector General is conducting the investigation.

Alleged whistleblower retaliation

Joel Clement, a policy expert at the Interior Department, claimed that he was reassigned after speaking publicly about the effects of climate change on Alaska Native communities and criticising Zinke.

The OSC opened an investigation in August.

Potential Hatch Act violation: Make America Great Again socks

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesRyan Zinke.

Zinke tweeted a picture of himself wearing President Trump campaign socks with the Make America Great Again slogan from his official Twitter account on June 26. OSC has previously instructed White House officials to not wear or display the MAGA slogan while on duty and has reportedly reprimanded six administration officials for violating the policy.

OSC confirmed in July that it had opened a case file into Zinke’s tweet.

Discontinued investigations

Several investigations into Zinke’s management were discontinued or inconclusive because of lack of evidence or cooperation.

The most notable case is an alleged threat to Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski after she voted against beginning debate on overturning the Affordable Care Act. Zinke allegedly called Murkowski and said the vote could have negative consequences for her state.

Probes from both the inspector general and the Government Accountability Office were forced to close after Murkowski and the Interior Department refused to cooperate.

A probe into three taxpayer-funded chartered flights, including a $US12,000 chartered flight after he spoke to a National Hockey League team in Las Vegas. Investigators concluded the trips followed general guidelines, but department staffers did not provide complete information.

Investigations that cleared misconduct allegations

Zinke has been cleared of wrongdoing in a handful of cases into other possible Hatch Act violations.

Investigators found that Zinke did not violate the Hatch Act when he gave a speech to the Golden Knights, a Las Vegas professional hockey team owned by a donor to Zinke’s congressional campaign.

Several of Zinke’s trips between March and October 2017 that were a combination of business and political events, including one during which he attended a GOP fundraiser in the Virgin Islands, were also cleared.

Zinke has only been ruled against once

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Inspector General found Zinke violated department policies by having his wife travel with him in government vehicles and tried to sidestep rules to have his wife’s trips covered by taxpayer funding.

The report also found Zinke had weighed making his wife an Interior Department volunteer so she could receive travel benefits. Zinke also brought agency security detail with him on a family vacation, which cost taxpayers more than $US25,000.

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