Among the 80,000 attendees at the September 2015 countercultural “Burning Man” festival in rural Nevada was a Bureau of Land Management supervisory agent, his girlfriend, father and a friend.
After getting a deal on special-access tickets, the group used a government vehicle, according to an Interior Department inspector general’s report released last week. Acting on an anonymous tip, the watchdog’s investigators investigated the agent—identified by a Utah news outlet as Dan Love.
The result: he was found to have violated ethics rules, rules against personal use of government vehicles, and, in a separate situation, rules against bending the hiring process to favor a friend.
The BLM Office of Law Enforcement and Security, based in Salt Lake City, plays a supporting security role at the annual weeklong festival of art, ritual and pyrotechnics, tickets for which can cost $1,200 per person. But Supervisory Agent Love, investigators found, “violated federal ethics rules when he used his influence with Burning Man officials to obtain three sold-out tickets and special passes for his father, girlfriend, and a family friend. In addition, we confirmed that he directed on-duty BLM law enforcement employees to drive and escort his family during the event with BLM-procured, all-terrain and utility type vehicles.”
The probe also found that the girlfriend spent the night in the agent’s BLM-assigned trailer, another rules violation; that the agent inappropriately assigned a subordinate employee make a hotel reservation for his guests, and that the agent wrongfully used his own BLM vehicle to give his girlfriend a ride.
The supervisory agent told interviewers he had purchased tickets from an attorney representing the event's for-profit subsidiary and at full price because he knew people "would be looking,” and that he mentioned that fact to other managers.
Love also denied that he had helped his friend get a job for which, the report concluded, at least three others were more qualified.
One issue that arose during the review of the hiring process—for which 28 candidates were interviewed—was whether Love’s friend had been tipped off to questions in advance. One, the so-called “zinger” question, was, “What percentage of the state is public land?” Hiring managers said they believed the favored applicant knew the questions beforehand, but agent Love denied providing them.
The Interior Department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management is preparing a decision on discipline. Love, however, has already been removed from his position, having tacitly threatened a co-worker whom he believed to have abandoned him, according to the IG report. “You know, if you don’t side with me,” he said, “grenades are going to go off and you’ll get hit.”