Yesterday, Congressional hearings revealed widespread, troubling instances of serious misconduct among employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And while the agency tries to expand its regulatory powers under the stewardship of the Obama Administration through rules like the Clean Power Plan, it has often turned a blind eye, or issued only a slap on the wrist, to employees whose behavior included repeated instances of theft, fraud, and felonious activities.
As revealed during hearings of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the EPA’s Inspector General at the Office of Inspector General (OIG), Patrick Sullivan, found multiple instances of “egregious misconduct” among EPA employees, but little or no punitive action. The chairman of the House Committee, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), blasted the Environmental Protection Agency, noting that some of the employees engaged in criminal behavior were still employed.
Sullivan, along with Stanley Meiburg, the Acting Deputy Administrator for the EPA, testified at the hearing that in most of the cases, “employees faced little to no disciplinary consequences.” Most either still work at EPA or have “left the Agency on favorable terms with no loss of pay or benefits.”
Sullivan’s opening statement highlighted some of the worst incidents, but the most troubling case involved an EPA employee who was convicted for “indecent acts with a minor” in 1997. In 2006, he was “cited by the Dallas Police Department for the improper use of emergency lights on his personal vehicle while also being a registered sex offender.” When stopped by police, the EPA enforcement officer (which is not a law enforcement position) showed a “counterfeit badge that accompanied his EPA credentials to the police officer.”
Upon further investigation by the OIG, the EPA employee had designed and purchased 20 similar phony badges. He also owned a bullet-proof vest and had installed emergency lights on his personal vehicle, a violation of his probation. He had already been told in 1999 by his EPA supervisor that using police or rescue lights on a personal vehicle was prohibited and was asked to remove them.
After the Dallas incident, the EPA imposed only a 60-day suspension. In 2013, local authorities successfully arrested the employee for violating his probation. Following the employee’s arrest, EPA Region 6 (where the employee worked) put him on indefinite leave. In January 2014, the EPA terminated his employment.