November 14, 2013
Two Secret Service Agents Removed from President's Protection Detail
Govexec.com reports: Two Secret Service agents responsible for overseeing the security detail for President Obama were quietly removed from their roles earlier this year after multiple allegations of misconduct. The agents prompted an internal investigation, according to the Washington Post's scoop on yet another story of (alleged) bad behavior at the agency. The Post's report, citing four anonymous sources, comes as the Homeland Security Department prepares to release the results of an investigation into the Secret Service's culture, prompted by the incident in Colombia.
November 06, 2013
DOD IG Cites Several Instances of Misuse of Position
The Washington Post reports:
If you’d like to play golf on government time, Steven Calvery , who runs the Pentagon’s police force, could be the boss for you. Then again, if fetching lunch and coffee for your supervisor every day doesn’t appeal, you may want to work elsewhere.
Calvery, the director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, which safeguards the building and 100 other military sites around Washington, has been dinged by the Defense Department inspector general for “misusing” his position and underlings, our colleague Craig Whitlock reports.
In a 40-page report released Monday, the inspector general also said Calvery improperly allowed an unnamed relative to blast away at the Pentagon Force Protection Agency firing range, using a PFPA weapon and ammunition. Tips and advice were provided, gratis, by two PFPA firearms instructors. The relative was applying for a job with another law enforcement agency and apparently needed some practice, the report found.
The inspector general began its misconduct investigation into Calvery after it received a couple of anonymous complaints in March 2011, as well as a letter from an unidentified U.S. senator. The inspector general labored on the inquiry for nearly two years, wrapping things up on Feb. 20, but then kept the findings quiet. On April 2, The Washington Post filed a request for the Calvery investigation under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigators found that Calvery wanted to boost the “esprit de corps” of the 1,300 folks who worked for him. So in 2009 and 2010, he decreed that anyone who wanted to play in the PFPA’s annual golf tournament would receive four hours’ paid administrative leave.
October 21, 2013
Senior officer, NCIS agent are among those arrested in Navy bribery scandal
The U.S. Navy is being rocked by a bribery scandal that federal investigators say has reached high into the officer corps and exposed a massive overbilling scheme run by an Asian defense contractor that provided prostitutes and other kickbacks.
Among those arrested on corruption charges are a senior agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and a Navy commander who escaped Cambodia’s “killing fields” as a child only to make a triumphant return to the country decades later as the skipper of a U.S. destroyer.
The investigation has also ensnared a Navy captain who was relieved of his ship’s command this month in Japan. The chief executive of the Singapore-based defense contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, and another company official were arrested last month at a San Diego harborside hotel after federal investigators lured them to the United States by arranging a sham meeting with Navy officials, according to court records and people involved in the case.
The unfolding investigation is shaping up as the biggest fraud case in years for the Navy. Federal prosecutors allege that Glenn Defense Marine, which has serviced and supplied Navy ships and submarines at ports around the Pacific for a quarter-century, routinely overbilled for everything from tugboats to fuel to sewage disposal.
Contract attorney faces felony overbilling case, allegedly claimed over 24 hours on 80 work days
An Iowa lawyer is facing felony charges after allegedly obtaining nearly $178,000 in improper payments, between 2007 and 2011, for his work as a contract attorney for the state public defenders office.
Ney McDaniel, 60, is charged with theft and fraudulent practice concerning his work in Clay County, reports Radio Iowa.
An audit found that McDaniel claimed to have put in more than 24 hours of work on 80 different days, the station says. Because the state contract payment system is focused on specific matters, rather than individual lawyers, special efforts are needed to figure out how many hours of work an individual has claimed per day, explained State Auditor Mary Mosiman. After the McDaniel investigation, a statewide review was conducted of work by outside lawyers for the public defender and the contracts of four other attorneys were terminated.
McDaniel and his lawyer didn't respond to requests for comment by the station.
September 28, 2013
Ex-EPA official pleads guilty to theft, pretended to work for the CIA
A former high-level official at the Environmental Protection Agency pleaded guilty Friday to stealing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars by pretending to work for the CIA.
For years, John C. Beale disappeared from the office and explained his lengthy absences by telling his bosses he was doing top-secret work. Beale never worked for the CIA, never had top-secret security clearance and carried on a “pattern of deception for over 10 years,” said magistrate Judge John M. Facciola.
Beale, 64, was charged in August with collecting nearly $900,000 in pay and bonuses for work he avoided performing at EPA. New details emerged Friday about Beale’s scheme. During a 12-year period, prosecutors said, he was away from the office for at least 102 days under the guise of working for the CIA. He took five personal trips to Los Angeles for what he said was a “special research project” and charged the government $57,000 for his travel. To obtain a parking space, Beale lied to his managers about having contracted malaria while serving in Vietnam. He never served in Vietnam, according to the statement of offence Facciola summarized in court.
Mark Lowenthal, a former CIA official who is now president of the Intelligence & Security Academy, said a person who was legitimately working undercover would never have explicitly told colleagues as Beale did, “I’ve got secret work to do.” “His whole story was wholly implausible, and unfortunately, somebody should have been smart enough to realize,” Lowenthal said. “But this is Washington and people never know who is who, and are tickled by the secret stuff going on.”
September 26, 2013
Navy Commander and NCIS Agent Charged in Bribery Scheme
A U.S. Navy commander, an NCIS Special agent and a Singapore businessman have been charged in what prosecutors call a worldwide bribery scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contracts.
The case involves a multinational company that supplies Navy ships with food, water and waste services when they dock at countries in Asia. Leonard Francis, CEO of the Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., was arrested in San Diego Monday and appeared in San Diego Federal Court Tuesday on charges in two separate bribery investigations. Francis, 58, allegedly bribed U.S. Navy Commander Mike Misiewicz, 46, to redirect U.S. Navy vessels to ports his company would benefit from, according to court documents obtained by NBC 7 News. He then allegedly bribed NCIS Special Agent John Beliveau, 36, to gain confidential information in a fraud investigation, the documents say.
All three have been charged with conspiring to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
September 24, 2013
IRS Accepts Retirement of Official at Center of Scandal
Lois Lerner, the head of the Internal Revenue Service division under fire since May for alleged political targeting of conservative groups, submitted her resignation Monday morning after months of administrative leave, the agency acknowledged. “We can confirm today that Lois Lerner has retired,” the IRS said in a statement. “Under federal privacy rules, the IRS cannot comment further on individual employee matters.”
Acting Internal Revenue Commissioner Danny Werfel has been implementing reforms of the troubled agency, including the empaneling of an Accountability Review Board, while also following established rules on personnel actions, the agency said. Earlier this month, Werfel was pressed by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee to explain why Lerner continued to collect a paycheck after she invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and declined to testify on her two-year role supervising the processing of applications for tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups and judging the extent to which the groups are political. Republicans also criticized her use of private email for some official communication and her past work for the Federal Election Commission.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement saying, “Lerner’s exit from the IRS does not alter the Oversight Committee’s interest in understanding why applicants for tax exempt status were targeted and inappropriately treated because of their political beliefs. We still don’t know why Lois Lerner, as a senior IRS official, had such a personal interest in directing scrutiny and why she denied improper conduct to Congress. Her departure does not answer these questions or diminish the committee’s interest in hearing her testimony.”
September 18, 2013
D.C. Council censures Marion Barry for taking cash payments from city contractorsThe Washington Post reports: D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, was censured Tuesday by his D.C. Council colleagues for taking thousands of dollars in cash payments from contractors with business before the city. The council voted 9 to 4 to strip Barry of his committee chairmanship, with some colleagues describing Barry’s lapse as another mark on the city’s dismal ethics record. In the past two years, three council members have pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges.
September 12, 2013
House Ethics Committee Decides Against Full-Scale Investigations of Four Lawmakers
The House Ethics Committee won’t move forward with full-scale investigations into four lawmakers — Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), John Tierney (D-Mass.) and Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) — but will continue to review three of those cases, the secretive panel announced on Wednesday. The panel voted to end outright its review of the allegations against Tierney. The Ethics Committee’s announcement that it will continue to look into Roskam, Bachmann, and Bishop but not launch full-scale investigations is the latest in a growing trend by the panel.
The committee has declined to empanel special investigative subcommittees to handle these matters, but then also has refused to end their investigations outright. The cases then sit in limbo, although based on past practice, the members face little chance of sanction by the committee. The Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent watchdog agency, recommended full investigations of all four lawmakers over the alleged violations. The Ethics Committee reviewed the cases for a three-month period before its Wednesday announcement.
September 05, 2013
Former senior EPA adviser Beale expected to plead guilty in $900,000 pay fraud
The Washington Post reports:
Over the past 12 years, John C. Beale was often away from his job as a high-level staffer at the Environmental Protection Agency. He cultivated an air of mystery and explained his lengthy absences by telling his bosses that he was doing top-secret work, including for the CIA. For years, apparently, no one checked.
Now, Beale is charged with stealing nearly $900,000 from the EPA by receiving pay and bonuses he did not deserve. He faces up to three years in prison.
Beale, 64, who was a senior policy adviser in the Office of Air and Radiation, is expected to plead guilty at a hearing scheduled for Monday at U.S. District Court in Washington. “This is a situation where one individual went to great lengths to deceive and defraud the U.S. government,” said EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson. Beale’s attorney, John W. Kern, declined to comment on the case, as did a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.
At agency headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue, Beale fostered an enigmatic image. He frequently traveled to China, South Africa and England, according to several people who worked with him. He would describe his trips and mention a lingering case of malaria. The Arlington County resident told colleagues that his stints away from the office were for “sensitive work for another agency,” according to an official familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is pending.
August 27, 2013
Texas Lt. Gov. pulled rank while trying to get relative out of jail
Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), in a newly released audio recording, refers to his office and his work to support law enforcement while trying to get a relative out of jail. In the audio, first reported by the NBC affiliate in Dallas, Dewhurst doesn’t make any threats. But he does repeatedly refer to his job title and his work with law enforcement, calling himself its “No. 1 pick.”
“This is David Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor of the state of Texas,” Dewhurst introduces himself on the Aug. 3 call to the police department in Allen, Tex., a Dallas suburb. “And I want to talk to the senior officer who is there at your department right now.” After the person who answers the phone asks Dewhurst to clarify, Dewhurst repeats that he is the lieutenant governor.
After waiting on hold for a couple minutes, he is transferred to a sergeant, whom Dewhurst asks to spell his name and then repeats that he is the lieutenant governor. Later, Dewhurst tells the sergeant that two officials will call the sergeant after he does to verify that he was, in fact, the lieutenant governor.
Dewhurst says he believes his relative was arrested on a “mistaken charge” of shoplifting and refers to his support for law enforcement. “Sergeant, you don’t know me,” Dewhurst says. “I am every year the No. 1 pick of all of the law enforcement agencies within Texas — their No. 1 pick, all right? You don’t know it, but I’m a supporter of you, and I’m a supporter of everybody in law enforcement. And I want you to do whatever is the proper thing, ’cause this lady is not — I know in my heart — is not involved in intentionally walking out and stealing $57.”
The woman in jail is the daughter-in-law of Dewhurst’s stepsister. She was arrested after being accused of shoplifting at a grocery store.
Dewhurst’s office maintains he did nothing improper in the call and that he never asked the police to do anything out of the ordinary.
August 05, 2013
Former Homeland Security Supervisor Heads to Prison
A former manager at the Homeland Security Department is going to prison for taking nearly $13,000 in bribes from a government contractor.
A U.S. District Court judge recently sentenced Derek Matthews, 47, of Harwood, Md., to 15 months in prison and one year of supervised release for using his position at the Federal Protective Service to help a security service firm win more than $31 million in government contracts. Matthews pleaded guilty in April.
Matthews, who served as deputy assistant director for operations at FPS and later was promoted to regional director for the national capital region, netted $12,500 in bribes from Keith Hedman, an executive at an Arlington, Va., consulting firm, known as Company B in court documents. Company B was a shell company Hedman set up to obtain federal contracts set aside for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses.
Hedman in 2011 agreed to pay Matthews $50,000 in monthly installments over a year and a percentage of profits from new business in exchange for Matthews’ help finding and winning contracts. Matthews, who supervised 13,000 employees and 9,000 federal buildings in his job, received three monthly payments before investigators interrupted the scheme.
July 31, 2013
VA Governor McDonnell says he will return other gifts
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said Tuesday that he will return all the gifts from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and indicated for the first time that he was not aware of everything the Star Scientific executive had given to his family.
McDonnell (R) made the comment in a radio interview one week after announcing that he had repaid $120,000 in loans that Williams had made — $70,000 to a real estate company owned by the governor and his sister and $50,000 to first lady Maureen McDonnell.His remarks were his first since last week’s announcement, which was made in a written statement as the governor was en route to Afghanistan to visit Virginia troops. McDonnell said his first priority was to repair the trust with Virginia citizens that may have been lost as a result of the loans and gifts.
July 30, 2013
Congress Takes Aim at Senior Execs
Legislation circulating in Congress would empower agencies to immediately fire senior executives accused of misconduct under certain circumstances.
The bills, backed by several Republicans in both chambers, also would allow the government to put those top career employees on leave without pay for three months pending the outcome of an investigation. The legislation directs agencies to fire, suspend without pay, or reinstate employees at the end of the 90 days.
The Government Employee Accountability Act (H.R. 2759) is one of 10 bills the House will vote on this week as part of its “Stop Government Abuse” initiative. Other bills included in the initiative are specifically targeted at government spending as well at the Internal Revenue Service, which is still reeling from its management scandal involving career employees. H.R. 2759 allows agency leaders to remove senior executives on the spot if they determine that they have neglected their jobs, used taxpayer funds inappropriately or engaged in malfeasance, and if those actions endanger the interests of the agency or the country, according to the legislation. If agencies cannot remove such an employee expeditiously any other way, then immediate termination is an option under the bills. Employees would still retain their existing due process rights, including the right to appeal their removal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
July 16, 2013
Former Army official accused of scamming Ky. soldiers
A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a 42-year-old former Army official on identity theft and bank fraud charges, saying he tried to obtain loans by using stolen identities of active-duty and deployed soldiers. According to the indictment, James R. Jones, who was an assistant inspector general with the Army Office of Inspector General at Fort Campbell, illegally obtained Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other personal information of Army officers — some of whom were deployed in Afghanistan.
Authorities say one of his victims was a U.S. soldier who was killed in combat in Afghanistan, though they did not name the soldier.
Rich Rudnick, director of operations of the National Veterans Foundation, said the incident should raise questions at Fort Campbell about how leadership positions are filled and who exactly is monitoring soldiers’ personal information. “This could point to a structural failure,” said Rudnick, based in Los Angeles. “Is Fort Campbell protecting people’s information? Are they doing their job correctly? Are they doing due diligence to background employees? What kind of controls do military bases use to protect personal records?”
July 11, 2013
Ex- Army Corps official sentenced in contracting scheme of ‘historic proportions’
A longtime Army Corps of Engineers employee and the mastermind of a government contracting scam of “historic proportions” will spend nearly two decades behind bars, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
“You made history for the wrong reasons,” U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said before sentencing Kerry F. Khan of Alexandria to 235 months in prison and ordering him to pay more than $32 million in restitution.
Khan, a former contracting officer, was the ringleader of a network of corrupt public officials, government contractors and family members who stole taxpayer money through inflated billings and fake invoices in what authorities have called the largest bribery and “bid-steering scheme in the history of federal contracting.” The investigation has led to the prosecution of more than a dozen people and exposed weaknesses in oversight of federal government contracting.
July 09, 2013
SAIC pays $5.75M to settle false claims case
Defense contractor SAIC has agreed to pay $5.75 million to settle accusations the company circumvented the bidding process to win millions of dollars in Air Force contract work.
Unsealed Tuesday, the False Claims Act case was filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., in 2010 by a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Timothy Ferner, who had previously worked as the chief of staff for the Coalition and Irregular Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where SAIC was a contractor.
The complaint stemmed from a 2006 General Services Administration blanket purchase order awarded to SAIC for engineering and consulting services on “new products and emerging technologies,” according to the Justice Department, which joined the case last month.The Justice Department said in an announcement Wednesday that SAIC personnel provided false information to GSA contracting officials to win the blanket purchase order award. In particular, SAIC “caused another individual to falsely represent himself as an employee of the Senior Executive Staff of the Department of Defense and the Director of another federal agency,” according to DOJ. The DOJ statement does not identify the individual or explain further that individual’s role in the case.
June 19, 2013
Senior Energy Official Convinces Colleagues to Hire His Three Children
A senior official at the Energy Department successfully lobbied colleagues at the agency to hire his three children for summer internships, despite strict rules against nepotism in the federal government, according to an internal audit.
Energy’s inspector general found an employee in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office contacted 12 department employees -- including one high-ranking human capital official -- to encourage the hiring of his three children. In one instance, the official convinced an office to reverse its decision to go without interns and instead take on one of his children.
The employee -- whom the IG report did not name -- contacted the Office of the Chief Information Officer and followed up “a number of times” before the office ultimately “decided to reverse its previously announced decision” to forgo interns for the summer, the report said. The other two children worked in the same renewable energy office as their father. All three were hired as part of the Student Temporary Employment Program, or STEP.
Hollywood Didn’t Get Undue Access for Bin Laden Film, Auditors Say
Allegations that the White House sought special access to the Defense Department for screenwriters planning a film on the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Ladin were found unsubstantiated in a Pentagon inspector general’s report released on Friday.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in August 2011 had asked for a probe of whether Hollywood producers and writers had been given “top-level access to the most classified mission in history.” The subsequent investigation was broadened to address a complaint that Leon Panetta, when he was CIA director, had violated procedure by speaking the name of the Navy SEAL commander of the bin Ladin raid during a June 2011 awards ceremony at CIA headquarters.
In response to the King’s initial queries, the report concluded, “Our review did not identify consultations between DoD personnel and representatives of the Executive Office of the President.” The White House, it continued, did communicate with Deputy Defense Secretary for Intelligence Michael Vickers on the film project, and a special operations planner was designated to meet with the filmmakers, but no such meeting occurred.
June 17, 2013
Report: Va. Gov. McDonnell, wife billed taxpayers for personal items
Records obtained by The Washington Post state: Taxpayers have footed the bill for personal expenses, including body wash and dog vitamins, bought on behalf of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife. Records show the McDonnells billed the state for personal expenses that totaled less than $600. Among the expenses: a digestive system cleanse, sunscreen and sleep aids.
The Post reports the couple also reimbursed the state for more than $300 after an official who oversees spending at the Executive Mansion told the McDonnells taxpayers should not have paid for items, including deodorant and dry-cleaning for their children. However, the McDonnells also have used state employees to run errands for their adult children, including picking up a pair of pants at a tailoring shop. And after reimbursing the state for the more than $300, the Post says the McDonnells continued to bill Virginians for items, such as nasal spray and vitamins.
It's not known whether taxpayers were fully paid back for personal items because the state released only 16 receipts after the Post requested records covering 3 1/2 years. McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin tells the Post the governor's administration "has adhered to precedent in reimbursing the state for items meant for personal use."
June 11, 2013
At Energy Department, nepotism is ‘open and widely accepted,’ report says
A form of nepotism prohibited within federal agencies has become “open and widely accepted” at the Energy Department, according to a federal watchdog report.
Energy Department inspector general Gregory H. Friedman said in the report last week that one of the agency’s senior managers advocated for three of his college-age children to be hired for department internships last year.
The unnamed manager, who served in an executive role with the agency’s energy efficiency and renewable energy division, contacted 12 officials to inquire about opportunities for his children, according to the inspector general. Investigators found that one department reversed its previously announced decision to not hire interns for 2012, after the senior official contacted division leaders. All of the official’s children were hired by the agency during that year, according to the report. Two of the officials who made those hires told investigators they did not feel pressured by the father, the report said.
Nonetheless, the inspector general was critical of the manager advocating on behalf of his children. “Nepotism, or even its appearance, can have a decidedly negative impact on morale within an organization,” he said in the report. “The impact is likely severe, especially when considering the intense competition for . . . intern positions within the department.”
June 10, 2013
Former D.C. Council Member to Plead Guilty to Bribery Charges
The Washington Post reports: From a distance, Michael A. Brown was the picture of Washington success: Son of a political legend, member of the D.C. Council, well-dressed lobbyist, owner of a sprawling upper Northwest home. It became, in recent years, an upscale facade. Tax liens, mortgage troubles and unpaid rent hinted at deep financial difficulties for Brown, who lost a reelection bid last year and whose bills mounted with a lavish lifestyle and lengthy divorce.
Between July and March, Brown was so desperate for funds that he took $55,000 in cash from a company that he thought was seeking business opportunities with the city government, federal authorities alleged Friday. In fact, the business leaders were undercover investigators with the FBI. On Friday, prosecutors charged Brown, 48, with bribery, alleging he accepted the cash in exchange for a promise to help the business secure contracts with the city and a key government certification. The charge was presented in a criminal information, a document that can be filed only with a defendant’s consent and that typically indicates a plea deal has been reached. Brown told supporters Thursday night that he planned to plead guilty, and his lawyer confirmed the plan Friday. A hearing has been set for Monday at the U.S. District Court in Washington.
May 30, 2013
Former Fed Chair Launches Group to Restore Trust in Government
Government Exec reports: Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, a veteran of several government reform commissions, announced on Wednesday that he has launched a good-government organization of his own. The Volcker Alliance, which Volker formally unveiled as he prepared for a speech at the Economic Club of New York, “seeks to rekindle intellectual, practical, and academic interest in the implementation of policy – the `nuts and bolts’ of governance – and serve as a catalyst for sustained government improvement,” he said in a mission statement.
“There is an urgent need to restore trust and pride in the way our public institutions implement policies – from the White House and Congress to statehouses, cities, and towns across our country and in democracies around the world,” the statement said. Volcker called for focusing greater attention on the practicalities of how policies are administered and implemented as well as how “private initiatives and incentives can be allied with public purpose.” Progress can be achieved through trained managers, smart technologies and technical expertise, he added, and through “strong incentives for public service rather than private gain.”
Shelley Metzenbaum has been tapped to serve as president of the Volcker Alliance. Metzenbaum earlier this month left the Obama administration, where she was the associate director for performance and personnel management at the Office of Management and Budget.
May 15, 2013
Sentencing postponed for Scott Bloch, former head of the Office of Special Counsel
The Washington Post reports: The legal case for Scott J. Bloch, the former head of the federal agency that protects government whistleblowers, continued Monday when a federal judge balked at proceeding with sentencing because of what he called an “improperly sanitized version of events.”
Bloch, the Bush-era head of the Office of Special Counsel, pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of destroying government property when he ordered the deletion of office computer files by private technicians.
Bloch admitted in 2010 that he had not given House investigators complete information about an incident in which he hired a company called Geeks on Call to scrub computers at the Office of Special Counsel. At the time, Bloch had been accused of retaliating against his staff and closing whistleblower cases without proper investigation. He has maintained that he was trying to deal with a computer virus.
Bloch was initially sentenced to 30 days in jail, but a federal judge allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because neither side in the case had been aware that the offense required a sentence of jail time.
Congress to Investigate Whether IRS Employees Mishandled Sensitive Data
House and Senate lawmakers plan to investigate whether tax agency officials exploited stored sensitive information about conservative political organizations that filed for tax-exempt status, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
The IRS apologized May 10 for applying extra scrutiny to groups whose names included words such as "tea party" and "patriot" when vetting the organizations for compliance with tax laws. It’s not clear if IRS employees with computer privileges mishandled sensitive information related to the targeted organizations, such as disclosing donor lists to unauthorized individuals. A draft inspector general timeline outlining the evolution of the policy on reviewing tax-exempt applications obtained by Nextgov states IRS officials decided certain sensitive data could be expunged. “The requested donor information could be destroyed . . . It does not need to be kept in the administrative file,” the government documents state.So far, there have been no indications agency personnel violated data protection rules for tax documents. Nonetheless, abuse of the conservative groups’ information is a worry, according to staff for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. The aides said lawmakers plan to address the issue at a committee hearing Friday on the IRS’s political profiling of applicants for tax-exempt status.
May 04, 2013
D.C. Council member Orange disciplined by ethics board
D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange was admonished by the city’s ethics board Thursday after it concluded that he had improperly interfered with health inspectors who were trying to close a rat-infested business.
Orange, who was ordered to attend ethics training, is the first council member to be admonished by the relatively new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability.
May 03, 2013
Commerce agents plead guilty to fraud against agency
Two former Commerce agents who allegedly accused superiors of wrongdoing pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing false expense claims and clocking hours they didn’t work, according to the Justice Department.
Rachel Ondrik, 35, of Frederick and Kirk Yamatani, 38, of Ashburn, who worked as special agents for the inspector general’s office of the Commerce Department, sought payment for more than $36,000 each in false relocation expenses, according to their plea agreements.The former agents also committed time and attendance fraud, the Justice Department said. As part of their pleas, Ondrik and Yamatani agreed to probation and $42,000 each in fines and restitution to the government.
May 01, 2013
Charges Filed in Contract Fraud Probe
Kathleen McGrade was a contract specialist inside the State Department, but prosecutors say she didn’t live like one. Steering tens of millions of dollars in work to a company controlled by her husband, McGrade bought a yacht, penthouse condo and lots of jewelry, according to charges unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Virginia.
McGrade, 64, and her husband, Brian C. Collinsworth, 46, both of Fredericksburg, Va., face up to 20 years in prison on charges stemming from what authorities called a “secret scheme” by the couple to steer more than $60 million to a company they controlled.
April 30, 2013
ABA opinion cautions judges to avoid ethics pitfalls of social media
Judges don’t have to sit by the now-proverbial telephone hoping to make contact with the rest of the world. Instead, they may join the growing numbers of people who participate in electronic social networking.
That was the conclusion reached by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility in its Formal Opinion 462 (Judge’s Use of Electronic Social Networking Media), issued on Feb. 21. (ABA ethics opinions are identified by the numeric order in which they are issued, but Opinion 462 is the first one since the 1980s that does not also include a two-digit prefix designating the year of issuance.)
In its opinion, the ethics committee notes that electronic social media “has become an everyday part of worldwide culture.” The opinion describes ESM as Internet-based electronic social networking sites that require an individual to affirmatively join and accept or reject connection with particular individuals.
But the opinion also urges judges to enter this particular electronic highway with extreme caution, for two primary reasons: first, the Model Code of Judicial Conduct does not specifically address a judge’s participation in electronic social media and second, judges must be careful what they post, as wide dissemination has the potential to compromise or appear to compromise the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judge, as well as to undermine public confidence in the judiciary.
April 17, 2013
New policies may change MWAA executives’ travel practices
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has earned praise from Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for changes to the authority’s travel and ethics policies after revelations that some board members spent lavishly on plane tickets and meals.
Documents detailing the expenses of top MWAA executives, however, show that some of them have similarly pricey tastes and, under new policies, may have to cut back on their business travel and meal expenses.
During the 15-month period covered by the documents, at least four top MWAA officials — the vice presidents for air-service development, finance and business administration and the now-former vice president for information and telecommunication services — each filed more than $10,000 in expenses. One MWAA vice president purchased a plane ticket that cost $12,000, according to the records, which were obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act. By contrast, John E. “Jack” Potter, the MWAA’s president and chief executive, spent just under $3,500 during the time covered by the documents.
None of the expenses appear to violate the MWAA policies in place at the time, but they add new context to the controversy that erupted last summer over the expenses of another top MWAA official.
April 12, 2013
Contractor pleads guilty in bribery, bid-rigging case
A northern Virginia technology contracting firm and its former president pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington to bribery charges in what prosecutors call the largest bid rigging scam in federal contracting history.
The company, Nova Datacom, admitted paying more than $15 million in bribes to three officials in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Army, according to prosecutors. The investigation found more than $30 million bilked by corrupt contractors and officials through inflated and bogus invoices.
Nova Datacom’s former president, Min Jung Cho, 44, faces up to five years in prison and the company faces up to $79.2 million in fines. No sentencing date has been set. The ringleader of the scam, former Army Corps contracting official Kerry Khan, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing in July. In a statement, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ron Machen said 15 individuals have pleaded guilty in the investigation.
Mitch McConnell Hit With Ethics Complaint Over Leaked Ashley Judd Tape
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been hit with an ethics complaint after a leaked tape revealed he was discussing with aides how to take on potential opponent Ashley Judd.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has asked the Senate ethics committee and the FBI to investigate whether McConnell was having a discussion about potential Judd weaknesses -- including her mental health and religion -- on government time.“Using taxpayer-funded resources to pay staffers to dig up dirt on political opponents isn’t just an ethics violation, it’s a federal crime,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “As Sen. McConnell requested, the FBI is investigating the recording. A thorough and fair investigation necessitates the bureau also inquire into whether Sen. McConnell himself violated the law.”
April 02, 2013
Former Army Corps of Engineers Program Manager to be Sentenced for Contracting Scam
Former Army Corps of Engineers program manager Kerry Khan pleaded guilty in May 2012 to bribery and contract bid-rigging charges and will be sentenced this July.In all, Khan and his associates had illegally pocketed more than $30 million in kickbacks and bribes over almost five years. When authorities finally arrested Khan in October 2011, he had been planning an even bigger scheme to steer a nearly $1 billion federal contract.
Here is how Khan's operation generally worked: Contractors involved in the scheme submitted bogus invoices, which the Army Corps — with Khan’s help — paid out. In exchange, the money from those invoices went to payoffs and kickbacks through various businesses, records show. The kickback scheme involved a big Army Corps contract known as TIGER, for Technology for Infrastructure, Geospatial and Environmental Requirements. Until their arrests in fall 2011, Khan and others planned to steer another nearly $1 billion contract known as CORES, for Contingency Operations Readiness Engineering and Support, prosecutors said. During one of the early court hearings in the case, Michael Atkinson, an assistant U.S. attorney, said the operation centered on an informal holding company, which he called “Khan Incorporated.” “Of course, the public did not know that it was investing in Khan Incorporated, since the money that was used to fund Khan Incorporated was stolen,” he said. Among others who pleaded guilty were Khan’s brother, Nazim Khan, and son, Lee Khan.
March 14, 2013
March Madness! Ethics Guidance
IEC member Paul Conrad shares the annual March Madness ethics guidance- thanks Paul!
The guidance may be found here Download March Madness 2013
September 04, 2012
House Ethics Committee Extends Investigation of New Jersey Congressman
The House Ethics Committee announced Friday that it will take more time to review allegations that a congressman representing New Jersey misused campaign funds by spending them on personal expenses, including a family trip to Scotland and a high school graduation party for his daughter.
The committee also released a detailed report on the practices of Democratic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews that it received in March from the Office of Congressional Ethics. That report found there is “substantial reason to believe” that Andrews inappropriately used campaign funds to take his family to Scotland for a wedding, to make multiple trips to California and for a party held in honor of the high school graduation of one of his daughters and the 20th anniversary of his congressional service. All were in 2011.
As it released the report, the Ethics Committee said it does not indicate that there was a violation.
February 13, 2012
Ethics Related News
- A former IRS employee used his knowledge of the IRS for personal gain, and received a 9 year sentence as well as an order to repay $30,649. Read the DOJ press release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/February/12-tax-193.html
- US Postal Service defense its use of official travel. See GovExec article: http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/02/postal-regulator-defends-travel-records-after-senator-demands-details/41162/
February 09, 2012
Four Year Prison Term for Accepting Bribe
Thanks to the esteemed Steve Epstein for forwarding a tip to a press release concerning a government employee sentenced to four years in prison for what was referred to as a "relatively small" bribe of $189,000.
February 06, 2012
Shelby's STOCK Act
GovExec article discusses the implications of Congressman Shelby's amendments to the STOCK Act, introduced to address concerns about Congressmen not being covered by insider trading laws. Under the amendment the impact has been expanded to try to cover many Executive Branch personnel. As currently contemplated, the law could require:
- Electronic availability of Public Financial Disclosure report
- Posting of all stock trades of certain personnel, where the transaction exceeds $1,000, for all or some financial disclosure filers
For details about the various STOCK Act versions, see http://insidertrading.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004520.
October 13, 2011
Former DODEA Chief Fired
Stars and Stripes reports on the firing of a senior DoD official who is reported to have "used her power to secure jobs for friends and relatives, received pay to which she was not entitled and engaged in 'unprofessional conduct and speech.' ”
August 11, 2011
Letters of Recommendation Tip
The ever-generous Mark Stone shared a short explanation of writing letters of recommendation, based on 5 CFR 2635.702(b), worthy of publication in an organization's newsletter:
We routinely answer questions concerning the legality of government employees writing letters of recommendation. Government ethics rules do not prohibit government employees from writing letters of recommendation. However, there are conditions that must be met if a government employee would like to use official stationery and his or her official title in the signature block of a letter of recommendation. In order for a government employee to write a letter of recommendation and to use his or her official title and official stationery, all of the following three conditions must be met. First, the letter has been requested by the individual, OR by a company or organization that is considering the individual for some type of position or benefit. Second, the government employee has personal knowledge of the ability or character of the individual. Third, the government employee has dealt with the individual in the course of Federal employment, OR the government employee is recommending the individual for Federal employment. If you have any questions on this subject, please contact Mr. Smith at 555-1234.
Contact Mr. Stone to be added to his e-mail mailing list (address modified to reduce spam):
Mark --DOT-- Stone --AT-- wpafb -- DOT af --DOT-- mil
August 10, 2011
Senior Official Resignation Follows USPS IG Report
Federal Times has a lengthy story about the resignation of a member of the Postal Service Board of Governors after an IG report alleged ethical abuses. Here is an excerpt:
The IG report found that Kessler pressed other postal executives to back off a plan to purchase property that the Postal Service was leasing for a post office and vehicle maintenance facility in Sarasota, Fla. The agency had been leasing the property since 1965 and had an option to buy it at any time at a highly favorable price, the IG report said.
In a May 2 statement to Inspector General David Williams, Kessler's attorney said Kessler denied those charges. Kessler received many inquiries from members of the public and forwarded their concerns to the appropriate postal officials, the attorney said.
The statement said Kessler's involvement in the matter was sporadic and limited to a handful of phone calls with Band and emails to arrange those phone calls. Kessler forwarded emails from Band to postal officials and sent follow-up emails, his attorney said.
"There is no indication that Mr. Kessler improperly influenced or even attempted to improperly influence the Postal Service on this matter, nor did he have any reason to do so," the statement said. "Mr. Kessler had no personal, professional or financial interest in the outcome of the dispute."
Federal Times obtained a copy of the IG report through a FOIA request.
August 01, 2011
In Wake of Scandal, Florida County Expands Reach of Ethics Rules
An article in the Sun-Sentinel describes how voters and elected officials reacted to the ethical scandal that forced Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons to resign from his post amidst allegations of misuse of office. Because Koons was the fourth county commissioner to be ousted, voters approved countywide ethics reform, expanding the ethics code to all 38 cities, towns and villages in Palm Beach County. Koons was prosecuted for his crimes (including extortion) by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, showing that the county and state are beginning to take these missteps much more seriously than in the past. Finally, the case brought the Government in the Sunshine Law to the forefront, causing local officials to request an exemption from the law's requirements.
July 21, 2011
News items of interest:
- State Dept. contracting officer under investigation for steering $52M of contracts to her secret husband. See full article from Daily Caller at http://dailycaller.com/2011/07/19/state-dept-contract-officer-steers-52-million-to-secret-husband-daughter/.
- MSPB upholds removal of DHS Senior Special Agent, after he failed to establish whistleblower affirmative defense for (1) unauthorized queries of individuals on an official government computer database; (2) unauthorized disclosure; (3) misuse of position; and (4) lack of candor. See MSPB opinion at http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=618847&version=620720&application=ACROBAT.
- MSPB dismissal of OSC case to remove an employee for violation of the Hatch Act is upheld. OSC failed to comply with Board rules to state "with particularity any alleged violations of law or regulation, along with the supporting facts." However, OSC may bring a new complaint. See MSPB opinion at http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=621454&version=623336&application=ACROBAT
July 15, 2011
Soliciting Gifts from Outside Sources
The following pithy notice from an agency ethics office to the workforce struck us as being possibly useful to other agencies as well. We have edited it to remove agency-specific information:
Subject: Reminder On Rules Regarding Solicitation of Gifts from Outside Sources
One of the regular topics of instruction in your annual ethics training is the prohibition on receiving gifts as a result of your status as a federal employee. Gifts include any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. The reason for this rule is to avoid any actions violating the law and ethical standards of public trust or creating the appearance of private gain.
There are limited exceptions when a gift may be accepted, guidance for which is found at the agency's ethics website or by contacting GC.
This notice is a reminder of the specific prohibitions on the solicitation of gifts. Employees shall not, directly or indirectly, solicit a gift or other item of monetary value from a prohibited source; or solicit a gift because of an employee's official position. There are no exceptions to this rule.
A prohibited source includes any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by this agency. This includes, for example, our implementing partners, or other think tanks or entities we interact with in our official positions.
It would also be a violation to solicit a gift based upon your status as an employee of this agency. For instance, soliciting complimentary or "comped" tickets for a dinner or reception hosted by an outside organization would be improper. This also applies even if the goal is to ensure or increase agency participation. The substance or merit of the activity is not a consideration.
Where improper gift solicitation occurs, any solicited gifts must be returned to the donor or the recipient must pay the fair market value. Disciplinary action against the employee making the solicitation may be warranted.
Once again, if you have any questions, please seek guidance at the above web sites or by contacting GC for advice.
July 07, 2011
IG investigation into Defense Education Agency Director
The Inspector General for the Department of Defense substantiated multiple charges against the DoD Education Agency's former Director, including violations of the Joint Ethics Regulation and standards of conduct. See Federal Times article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20110630/DEPARTMENTS01/106300306/1049/PERSONNEL and IG redacted report at: http://www.dodig.mil/fo/Foia/PDFs/MilesROIforreleaseRedacted.pdf.
June 23, 2011
Former Army Contracting Officials Charged with ... Filing False Ethics Forms
A Justice press release reports that a former Army contracting official and his spouse were indicted for conspiracy to defraud the US, filing false tax statements, and filing false statements on their Government ethics financial disclosure documents. See full press release at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/June/11-tax-821.html.
May 24, 2011
Palin Author Investigated Over Propriety of Using E-mails
Frank Bailey, a former aide to Sarah Palin, released a tell-all book this week, chronicling his time working for the former Governor from 2006-2008. His book is largely based on emails he sent and received during that time. As a result, the Alaska attorney general's office is looking into Bailey's use of the emails, citing the ethics regulation that bars former public officials from using information acquired during their work for personal gain if the information hasn't been publicly disseminated. While Bailey's attorney maintains Bailey took great care to ensure compliance with all legal requirements, the issue serves as a reminder to all former public officials to check with their ethics office when planning to embark on a project that involves using information garnered from time in public service.
May 10, 2011
Former US Marshal Service employee pleads guilty
Sno H. Rush, formerly an employee of the U.S. Marshall Servie, plead guilty to theft of $104,000 in government funds, and was sentenced to 21 months in prison and 3 years supervised probation. The money was appropriated by misuse of her position and government credit card and used to offset her personal credit card debt. See US DOJ press release at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/May/11-crm-588.html.
May 09, 2011
OGE on YouTube
OGE has training videos at YouTube:
- Criminal conflict of interest statute (18 U.S.C. 208)
- Impartiality (5 C.F.R. 2635,Subpart E)
- Gifts from Outside Sources (5 C.F.R.2635, Subpart B)
January 31, 2011
FBI Office of Professional Responsibility report on Agents behavior
CNN reports on the ethical and inappropriate conduct of FBI employees. From documents obtained from the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, it appears that only 325-350 out of 34,300 FBI employees are disciplined each year, which bodes pretty well for their ethical conduct of the agency. But it also shows some serious lack of judgment and conduct unbecoming a Federal employee. See report at http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/01/27/siu.fbi.internal.documents/index.html.
See related articles:
- FBI OPR document at http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/01/27/fbi.documents.siu.pdf
- TMP Media report at http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/fbi_agent_threatened_to_release_sex_tape_with_reporter.php?ref=fpb#.