Charles Monnett released the email documents in an article he and fellow scientist Jeffrey Gleason wrote on polar bears. The article, which appeared in the Polar Biology
journal in 2006, was based on 2004 observations made by Monnett and Gleason while they were conducting an aerial survey of bowhead whales. They saw four dead polar bears floating in the water after a storm.
In the article, Monnett and Gleason say they were reporting, to the best of their knowledge, the first observations of the bears floating dead and presumed drowned while apparently swimming long distances. They further claimed that their findings suggested that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future "if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues."
The investigation into the document release was conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the Interior Department and began just as the offshore hunt for oil in U.S. Arctic waters and the plight of polar bears was garnering intense public attention according the Alaska Dispatch
is reporting that a memo written by Interior Department official Walter Cruickshank, said the inspector general’s investigation contained findings that Monnett had improperly disclosed internal government documents. Juneau Empire
says Cruichshank claimed the documents were later used against the agency in court.
Findings of the investigation, which was published Friday, also suggested that Monnett and Gleason used an incomplete database as the main source of information for the article, made conflicting statements to investigators and accused Monnett of "secretly padding the war chest of anti-oil activists" with confidential internal government emails pertaining to drilling in the Arctic by Royal Dutch Shell. The report went on to say investigators found that the article had “little or no impact” on a federal decision to include polar bears under special protections of the Endangered Species Act.
Although Monnett was suspended during the investigation, he has now been cleared to return to work.
Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, the nonprofit group representing Monnett and Gleason, told the Alaska Dispatch
“We are pleased this misguided witch hunt is finally stumbling to a conclusion. We will push to learn how this abusive probe got started and why it was sustained.”