Ex-Interior chief Norton cleared in ethics probe

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has closed an ethics probe of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the Obama administration said Friday.

Norton was accused of using her position to steer lucrative oil leases to Royal Dutch Shell PLC, where she took a job soon after leaving her post at Interior.

But a two-year investigation failed to prove a conflict of interest, said Mary Kendall, the Interior Department’s acting inspector general, who announced Justice’s decision.

“We found that Norton was very interested in the (oil lease) program during her tenure as secretary,” Kendall said. “But we did not find evidence to conclusively determine that Norton violated conflict-of-interest laws, either pre- or post-employment with Shell.”

Kendall said Interior appeared to give Shell preferential treatment in at least two instances, but that she could not link either case to Norton, who served as Interior secretary from 2001 to 2006. Kendall shared the results of her probe with Justice officials, who declined criminal prosecution, she said.


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