Concerns have been raised about some of President Joe Biden’s appointees to various government positions and their lack of qualifications or experience for the role to which they were assigned.
Now it appears that statutory law may have been violated concerning the ineligibility of Biden’s pick to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Examiner reported.
That Biden nominee is Martha Williams, who was just confirmed as the new director of the Fish and Wildlife Service by way of a voice vote in the Senate chamber Thursday. She had served as the “acting” director since the Biden administration’s first day.
Eligibility standard set by federal law
At issue here is a law that dates back more than 50 years that established the position of director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and set the standard of qualification for the role.
Specifically, per 16 U.S. Code Sec. 742(b), “No individual may be appointed as the Director unless he is, by reason of scientific education and experience, knowledgeable in the principles of fisheries and wildlife management.”
That is a problem for Williams because, as she has previously admitted, she has no “scientific education” as required by the law, and instead holds only a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy as well as a law degree. She does have some experience, however, having served for three years as director of Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
Lack of qualification “presents a serious issue”
Last week, the government ethics watchdog group Protect the Public’s Trust sounded the alarm about Williams and how her confirmation as the Fish and Wildlife Service director would violate the law and call into legal question any agency actions that occurred under her leadership.
The decision to place Ms. Williams in the role in spite of an apparent lack of required qualifications creates a risk that her appointment is contrary to law. Such a risk not only adds an element of legal vulnerability to her future decisions but also appears to bolster public perceptions that the Administration is breaking precedent and holding double standards when it seems to advance their policy agenda.
“While the confirmation of Martha Williams was bipartisan, it was nevertheless precedent-breaking and could create legal issues for the Department’s major priorities that might not have been fully considered,” Michael Chamberlain, the watchdog group’s director, said in a statement, and added, “Ms. Williams’ lack of statutory qualification presents a serious issue for the Department.”
Warnings were issued but ignored
Also blowing the whistle on the unlawful nomination and confirmation of Williams was a former top official at the Fish and Wildlife Service, David Parsons, who published a blog post in December raising his legitimate concerns over the nominee’s clear lack of statutorily required “scientific education” qualifications.
“It just sets a really bad precedent, especially under a Democratic president, to break that law for the first time,” Parsons recently told the Examiner. “It’s a law. It’s not a policy. It’s actually a codified federal law that sets those standards for anyone to be appointed director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Also highlighting the issue is lawyer-turned-environmental activist Robert Aland, who suggested any actions taken under her watch could be challenged in court, and told the Examiner, among other things, “There’s a cloud hanging over any decision she participates in, which is every decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”