A Bureau of Land Management Investigative Report on Ethical Violations and Misconduct released early this week charges a BLM law enforcement official with a series of improprieties and federal ethics violations at the 2015 Burning Man festival. Among these charges are the use of the official’s position to improperly acquire sold-out Burning Man tickets for his girlfriend and family, using on-duty BLM agents as private security and chauffeurs for his guests, and inappropriate use of BLM housing for his guests at the event. The report also includes a separate charge unrelated to the Burning Man festival, alleging improper manipulation of the BLM hiring process to get a friend a Bureau job.
The 16-page report does not name the law enforcement official, and simply refers to him as “Supervisory Agent”. But the report contains numerous unique identifiers referring to the Supervisory Agent. It notes that the agent was based in Salt Lake City at the time, “prepared the operational plan” for the event, that “he oversaw all law enforcement personnel”, and “remained in command of operations” at that year’s event. Most pointedly, the report cites an unnamed newspaper article with specific wording about Bureau requests for “outlandishly unnecessary facilities for BLM and its guests.”
A simple Google search shows that the unnamed newspaper article is actually the June 2015 Reno Gazette-Journal article BLM Demands Burning Man Provide 24-Hour Access to Ice Cream. Still notoriously known in Burning Man circles as the Choco Taco Standoff, this references the BLM’s unprecedented (and ultimately unsuccessful) 2015 request for a $1 million luxury compound in which they’d be provided 24/7 access to Choco Tacos and various other ice cream treats in a rider of menu demands that even Van Halen would say was a little excessive.
A separate Reno Gazette-Journal article from 2015 identifies those requests as originating from BLM Special Agent Dan Love, who served as special agent in charge of Nevada and Utah for the BLM and specifically as special agent in charge at Burning Man for 2015. The Gazette-Journal was unable to reach Love for comment on Tuesday about the new report, and the BLM would not comment on an internal personnel matter.
The BLM Investigative Report on the Burning Man allegations says the the Supervisory Agent “obtained three full-event Burning Man tickets for ‘family’ members identified as his father, a family friend, and the Supervisory Agent’s girlfriend” at a time when tickets to the event were already sold out. This would violate federal ethics regulations on employees using their positions to get special treatment for friends or relatives. The Supervisory Agent is also accused of using his position to procure special passes for his family to the inner perimeter of the actual burning of The Man at the 2015 event. The report notes that “the inner perimeter was a special privilege and never previously requested by or given to a BLM official or law enforcement official.”
Another charge stems from improper use of BLM vehicles both before and during the 2015 Burning Man event. The Supervisory Agent is accused of having his family chauffeured and transported around Burning Man in BLM-owned utility vehicles, by BLM staff. This is a fairly ticky-tack charge, but one that applies (mostly for insurance purposes) to many federal and state employees who are assigned official vehicles.
What is less ticky-tack is that the report claims that when the Supervisory Agent’s employees saw that he was driving his girlfriend to Burning Man in a BLM-owned Chevy Tahoe, he told his employee “You will forget that you saw that.”
He also denied transporting his girlfriend in the vehicle when interviewed for the investigation, and allegedly harassed employees into providing incorrect answers during investigation. When one of of his subordinates was being interviewed, he allegedly attempted to persuade the subordinate into including media reports in their testimony about other law enforcement using helicopters to transport their spouses to Burning Man. “Email that [article] to [the Office of the Inspector General]!” the Agent allegedly texted. “Jesus! I look like a choir boy!”
Additional allegations include the Supervisory Agent putting his girlfriend up in the BLM lodging provided to agents at Burning Man. While the law enforcement operations plan (that the Supervisory Agent helped write) stipulates that “rooms are only for those persons assigned to the event,” the Supervisory Agent did admit to allowing his girlfriend lodging and meals in the BLM trailer. The Supervisory Agent is also accused of directing employees to book lodging and accommodations for his family on company time.
During the investigation, one employee said that the Supervisory Agent told her, “If you don’t side with me, grenades are going to go off and you’ll get hit.”
None of these charges seem as serious at the report’s non-Burning Man-related allegation that the agent in question corrupted a BLM hiring process to get his friend a job. Those who conducted the friend’s job interview said, under investigation, that “ the Supervisory Agent’s friend appeared to know the [interview] questions in advance.” The friend in question did get the job.