A federal scientist returned to work on Friday after his agency lifted a suspension that went on for six weeks.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement told the media that Alaskan scientist Charles Monnett was back on the job on Friday.
Melissa Schwartz told The Associated Press via email that Monnett though Monnett is back on duty, he was told he wouldn't have any role in developing or managing contracts. Monnett will now work in the agency's environmental assessment division.
The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General stated in a letter last week that Monnett had assisted a researcher in preparing a proposal while being the government official responsible for the reviewing of the proposal. In a letter sent to Monnett earlier in August, Special Agent in Charge David Brown alleged that the biologist helped Andrew Derocher to prepare a response to the government's request for proposal for a current study on polar bears, the New York Times reported.
The contract, which was a sole-source contract, was subsequently awarded to Derocher's employer, the University of Alberta in Canada.
Monnett was the chairman of the Technical Proposal Evaluation Committee. By helping Derocher draft the proposal, Monnett essentially reviewed a document he helped write, the Times reported about the letter.
But advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has claimed that Monnett was targeted for his paper on drowned polar bears that prompted publicity on climate warming.
Earlier this month, the AP had learned from an email that Monnett was placed on administrative leave pending the results of an inspector general's investigation into integrity issues.
A watchdog group said questioning by investigators focused on the polar bear observations but that Monnett wasn't told of the specific allegations being investigated. It was previously understood that the federal government suspended the wildlife biologist because the accuracy of his statistics wad being evaluated.
Monnett's 2006 report on polar bears, co-written by Jeffrey Gleason, consisted of a seven-page observational report on the deaths of polar bears, and was a strong point for activists who warned of global warming affecting the animals. Their report found that because of the melting of the polar bears' habitat, cubs that swam away for long distances with their mothers would die along the way.