A National Park Service concert venue has been providing free tickets to The Department of the Interior since the 1970’s as a part of a 20-year-contract, however this has raised ethical questions over the years. According to The Hill, the secretary will continue to receive these tickets – valuing around $43,000 – for the next two decades.
The tickets are provided from The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, a venue outside of Washington D.C. The contract currently in place provides the secretary with eight tickets per show. However, the contract was flagged last year by the inspector general’s office, The Hill notes, which caused the department to further investigate an ethical review of the arrangement, and the Interior complied with the request.
“The ethics opinion agreed with our conclusion that these tickets have not been handled appropriately in the past,” Nancy DiPaolo, director of external affairs for Interior’s inspector general, told The Hill. “There needs to be a transparent policy for how they give out and account for these tickets.”
However, E&E reported that the Interior Department shrugged off the ethical questions and once again signed the agreement last week, meaning the contract will be in place for another 20 years. Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, chief of public affairs for the National Parks Service, told the publication that the contract is a “long-standing tradition for the Department” and after the review, it was decided that the tickets are “government property and may be used by the Department for authorized purposes.”
“Consistent with this determination, under the new agreement the Foundation will continue to provide the Department of the Interior with eight seats for each performance,” she said.
It is unknown how the department will actually use these tickets, but Anzelmo-Sarles said they could be used for facilitating site visits or to promote “stewardship and provide opportunities for dialogue and education about the work of the department.” Yet, it’s highly likely these tickets could be used by officials purely for their own pleasure or personal reasons.