Just five years ago, Charles Monnett was one of the scientists whose observation that several polar bears had drowned in the Arctic Ocean helped galvanize the global warming movement.
Now, the wildlife biologist is on administrative leave and facing accusations of scientific misconduct.
The federal agency where he works told him he's being investigated for "integrity issues," but a watchdog group believes it has to do with a 2006 article in the journal Polar Biology about the bears.
The group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, filed a complaint on his behalf Thursday with the agency, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The complaint seeks Monnett's reinstatement and a public apology from the agency and inspector general, whose office is conducting the investigation.
Investigators have not yet told Monnett of the specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, the watchdog group's executive director.
An agency spokeswoman, Melissa Schwartz, said there was an "ongoing internal investigation" but declined to get into specifics.
Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said the case reinforces the group's position that people should be more skeptical about the work of climate change scientists.
Even if every scientist is objective, "what we're being asked to do is turn our economy around and spend trillions and trillions of dollars on the basis of" climate change claims, he said.
The agency, which oversees leasing and development of offshore drilling, was created last year in the reorganization of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which oversaw offshore drilling. The MMS was abolished after last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The agency was accused of being too close to oil and gas industry interests.
Monnett could not immediately be reached Thursday.