A congressional inquiry is being launched into a Bush administration official who may have improperly helped remove a Delta fish from the list of threatened species in a decision that benefited her financial interests.

The inquiry follows a Contra Costa Times investigative report into an apparent conflict of interest by Julie MacDonald. She served as deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Interior until her resignation last month after being accused of altering scientific reports in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species program.

Reps. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Nick Rahall, D-W. Va., chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, asked the Bush administration to explain why MacDonald was allowed to remove the Sacramento splittail from protected status even though she owns a working farm in its habitat area.

In a letter sent Monday to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the congressmen asked for details of MacDonald's role in the splittail delisting and other decisions affecting the management of fish and wildlife in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"We are going to fully investigate this matter and determine whether public policy was improperly altered because of personal conflict of interest," they wrote in a statement.

ONLINE: Read the full investigative story at ContraCostaTimes.com.



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