Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz had some harsh words for EPA Chief Administrator Gina McCarthy during a hearing Wednesday regarding the agency’s handling of an employee who repeatedly sexually harassed interns.
For the past couple of years, Republican lawmakers have been investigating reports of misconduct at the EPA, from employees watching porn everyday while on the job to an agency employee who sexually harassed interns and was not reported to the authorities and continued to work at the agency for years.
“This is a predator who was fed a steady diet of interns,” Chaffetz told McCarthy during the hearing. “The first time this happened he should have been fired and he should have probably been referred to the authorities for criminal prosecution.”
“It happened ten times, and you never did that,” he said. “You still haven’t done that on this person.”
Chaffetz remarks come after the EPA inspector general Arthur Elkins told Congress that Peter Jutro, an EPA employee, “engaged in offensive and inappropriate behavior toward at least 16 women, most of whom were EPA co-workers.” Elkins also said very senior EPA officials “were made aware of many of these actions and yet did nothing.”
The IG also noted that Jutro was even promoted to be Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Homeland Security where he again “engaged in such behavior toward an additional six women.”
Chaffetz went off on McCarthy over the agency’s failure to fire Jutro despite repeated allegations that he was sexually harassing women. Here is the exchange starting with McCarthy’s response to Chaffetz’s first remarks about a “predator who was fed a steady diet of interns”:
McCarthy: I am aware that eleven years ago there was an issue raised and it was handle appropriately is my understanding.
Chaffetz: Appropriately?! He got a promotion, he continued to work there.
M: No, he was carefully watched. the very minute we had any indication of impropriety, which was the recent issue, we took prompt action and in less than two months…
C: You moved his cubicle four spaces away. You think that’s appropriate? What do you say to the mother and father who sent their twenty-four year old to the EPA — she’s starting her career, and she’s harassed. Look at her statement. And you did the right thing by moving her four cubicles away?
M: Sir, we are doing everything we can to reinforce the policy and the law. We are developing procedures so there’s never a question about this, and we are doing everything…
C: That isn’t good enough! When someone is sexually harassed you send them to the authorities, you fire them.
M: I did send them to the authorities…
C: You sent them to human resources, who wanted to reprimand him, you never did send them to the criminal referral.
M: Human resources recommended the same thing as every manager, which was to proceed to removal, the man is no longer in federal…
C: That’s not what actually happened. It was in his record that they had had ten complaints — ten sexual harassment complaints against this gentleman and he was allowed to continue to be there. And as we heard testimony, a predator who was a fed a steady diet of interns.
M: I am aware of one complaint, eleven years ago, and the complaint that was just processed under my watch which resulted in his removal from public service within five or six weeks.
C: Did you fire him, or was he allowed to retire?
M: He was allowed to retire because that is his right. Even if he were fired, he’d be allowed to retire.
C: Do you believe this intern who said there was sexual harassment? Do that her statement is true?
M: Oh, I absolutely do…
C: then why didn’t you refer it for a criminal referral? If you believe that her statement is true, and it was sexual harassment, and that is a violation of the law, and you allowed him to just retire, why didn’t you send that to the proper authorities?
M: We took the appropriate action.
C: Do you think it’s appropriate, do you think it’s against the law to sexually harass somebody at work?
M: I think it’s not only against the law, but it’s also against our policies and we acted under the policies and the law when it led to the removal of him from public [office].
C: Did you let any of the law enforcement officer know?
M: Mr. Chaffetz, I’ve got two young daughters just about this woman’s age…
C: I’ve got two young daughters too! And I would never send them to the EPA, it’s the most toxic place to work I’ve ever heard of. This person, this twenty-four year old girl, she’s starting her career, she’s harassed over a three-year period and you admit that is a violation of the law. Why didn’t you do the criminal referral?