Trump appointee forced to resign
Scathing report shows loan program he over saw led to lawsuits
WASHINGTON >> Gavin Clarkson, a senior Bureau of Indian Affairs official appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in June, resigned Monday after the department’s inspector general issued a scathing report on the loan program he oversaw.
Clarkson, who served as deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development, ran a program that guarantees loans for tribal businesses. When Zinke appointed Clarkson on June 11, he said in a statement that his “expertise in the areas of law, finance and economic development are a valuable asset . . . as we work together with tribes to increase economic opportunity and promote self-determination throughout Indian Country.”
But before joining the Trump administration, Clarkson served as a consultant for tribes that received loans under the program, including a controversial $22.5 million loan for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe that helped finance the purchase of a brokerage firm that eventually went under. As a result, the Interior Department is now being sued over its refusal to guarantee the remaining $20 million balance on the loan.
Clarkson’s dealings with the tribe were the subject of a detailed report published by Human Rights Watch in 2015, as well as news reports. The inspector general’s report scrutinized how the loan program was run under the Obama administration, for which Clarkson worked as a tribal economic consultant.