PHOENIX (CN) - Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks under the George W. Bush administration, claims the Center for Biological Diversity defamed her in a press release that said she had "illegally tampered" with an Endangered Species Act listing decision.
In her complaint in Maricopa County Court, MacDonald cites the Center for Biological Diversity's Aug. 13, 2009 press release on an "Endangered Species Act listing decision known as the 'splittail decision.'"
The splittail is a fish found in the Sacramento Delta.
MacDonald claims the press release contains seven defamatory statements.
She says the environmental group reported that the decision to remove the Sacramento splittail from the Endangered Species Act list was "engineered by disgraced former Bush administration official Julie MacDonald."
She cites this excerpt: "(T)he delisting of the splittail was one of the most outrageous cases of political interference, manipulation of science, and blatant conflict of interest. ... Three investigations by the inspector general and a report by the Government Accountability Office to Congress concluded that Julie McDonald illegally tampered with the splittail listing decision." [Emphasis in complaint, citing the press release.]
She also cites as defamatory: "MacDonald resigned in disgrace following a scathing misconduct investigation by the Interior Department's inspector general revealing the depths of her corruption."
And she claims that the Center for Biological Diversity falsely accused her of editing the splittail decision "in a manner that appeared to benefit her financial interests," because she "owned an 80-acre farm in the Yolo Bypass - a floodplain that is key habitat for the splittail."
MacDonald claims that the investigation by the U.S. Office of Inspector General concluded that she had not tampered with any decision, including the splittail listing, or participate in any illegal activity.
MacDonald says the inspector general's office found that her participation in the splittail listing decision happened "months after the decision to remove the species from the list had already been made," and that her farm is many miles away from the Sacramento River, where the spilttail is found.
MacDonald joined the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1979 as a hydraulic engineer and began working for the California Resources Agency in 1987. She returned to the Department of the Interior in 2002 as a senior adviser to the assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. President George W. Bush appointed her deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in 2004, according to the complaint.
MacDonald demands punitive damages. She is represented by Kraig J. Marton and Mark D. Bogard with Jaburg & Wilk.
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