The past several years have not been kind to government bureaucracies. It’s true these departments have never been impervious to mistakes but the missteps seem to be more common or at least more intensely reported on during President Obama’s tenure. The VA, IRS, State Department, Justice Department, and HHS have all been involved in high profile scandals which, for the most part, still have not been fully resolved. While “Fast and Furious” and Benghazi have established themselves as well known news stories, there is a new addition to this growing list of struggling agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has long been at odds with Republican lawmakers, has come under scrutiny for possible misconduct regarding paid leave of absences for employees along other infractions.
According to a recent inspector general report, eight EPA employees accumulated over ten years of paid leave over the last three years. The value of this time off exceeded a million taxpayer dollars. Fox News has reported that this administrative action was due to “serious misconduct” by the employees. It also appears that the EPA has been hindering the inspector general’s investigation into these revelations.
The agency has also been criticized by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake who released a report this week claiming EPA employees misused credit cards and lost track of money meant to go to various projects. The report also accuses the EPA of shelling out $40,000 for a portrait of former Chief Administrator Lisa Jackson, who resigned last year amid rumors of a different scandal.
The EPA was already in hot water after a high level employee named John Beale received a 32 month prison sentence for lying about being a CIA agent in order to illicitly collect almost a million dollars worth of paid leave. The lack of transparency seems to have continued.
The agency insists in the Fox report that these actions represent standard procedure for any employee that is undergoing disciplinary action. But given the recent problem with John Beale and their unwillingness to cooperate with the inspector general’s investigation into the explanation for these paid absences, it begs the question why so many employees were given so much time off. The EPA has not responded to the contents of the Flake report.
EPA activity has been ramping up over the past year and appears likely to continue that course. Surely the President will do everything he can to downplay any scandal that emerges from these recent developments but he will have a difficult time convincing an already apathetic public that their tax dollars are being managed properly.
– Andrew Mark Miller