Legal Times: Griles hid romance from investigators
"When Sue Ellen Wooldridge stepped down last month from her job as the Justice Department's top environmental prosecutor, it wasn't her desire to return to the private sector that was notable, it was her timing.

Days earlier, Wooldridge's boyfriend -- oil and energy lobbyist J. Steven Griles -- had been put on notice that he was a target of the federal public-corruption investigation involving convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The romance between Wooldridge, 46, and Griles, 60, is significant and has had an impact beyond the Justice Department's Abramoff probe. Both previously held high-ranking jobs at the Interior Department -- Griles was deputy secretary there, while Wooldridge was deputy chief of staff to then-Secretary Gale Norton and later the agency's top lawyer.

At Interior, they concealed their relationship from multiple department investigators looking into Griles' contacts with former lobbying clients -- even as Wooldridge responded to the investigators on Griles' behalf and, later, as solicitor, oversaw Interior's ethics office, according to two current government officials with knowledge of the investigation and one former Interior official. These sources say the romance between Wooldridge and Griles was going on as early as February 2004.

Details of their relationship raise questions about the vetting process for presidential nominees at both the Justice and Interior departments, in addition to Wooldridge's candor with those who examined her credentials.

According to a transcript of her March 11, 2004, Senate confirmation hearing for the Interior solicitor job, as well as her written answers to Senate questions, Wooldridge did not disclose her relationship with Griles, despite being asked about Interior's investigation of Griles in a written question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and despite the fact that, as solicitor, Wooldridge would oversee the department's ethics office, which had been monitoring Griles.

Nor was the relationship disclosed to Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney, who conducted an 18-month investigation into numerous ethical allegations against Griles. Upon learning of the relationship after Griles left Interior in December 2004, Devaney, according to two sources, was furious."

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Official's Romance Raises Conflict Questions (The Legal Times 2/5)

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