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May 8, 2014

The Employee Protection Agency

With so much regulation to enforce, how do they have time for these extra-curricular activities?

It’s hard to pick our least favorite federal agency, as there are so very many bureaucratic candidates from which to choose. But any way we stack them, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) never fails to make the top – or is that bottom – of the list. From claiming “settled science” on global warming when the science is anything but settled to regulating industries to the point of job extinction, the EPA has little to recommend it. Well, if possible, it now has even less.

Last year, news broke that a senior-level EPA employee, John Beale, cheated the agency (read: taxpayers) out of $900,000 since 2000 by repeatedly – and sometimes at length – not showing up for work while claiming he was doing intelligence work for the CIA. In reality, he was riding bikes, reading books, doing housework or vacationing at his Cape Code home. How convenient. As bad as this is, it turns out Beale isn’t the only one in the EPA with secrets to hide.

After Beale’s covert housekeeping operation, the EPA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) began investigating how he was able to swindle the agency for so long without detection. Instead of cooperation from EPA officials, however, the OIG encountered roadblocks, ending in the exposure of a cover-up at the highest levels of the EPA.

The Associated Press reports, “A unit run by President Barack Obama’s political staff inside the Environmental Protection Agency operates illegally as a ‘rogue law enforcement agency’ that has blocked independent investigations by the EPA’s inspector general for years, a top investigator told Congress.” That investigator was assistant EPA inspector general for investigations Patrick Sullivan, who testified before a House oversight committee that “[u]nder the heavy cloak of ‘national security,’ the Office of Homeland Security has repeatedly rebuffed and refused to cooperate with the OIG’s ongoing requests for information or cooperation.”

It’s important to note that this is not the Department of Homeland Security but rather a small office within the EPA, set up by administrative order in 2003 and overseen by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s office. According to Sullivan, the office has no statutory authority to conduct investigations or enforce the law. Still, it somehow in 2012 managed to become the FBI’s primary contact within the EPA on investigations relating to national security.

Furthermore, according to Sullivan, the office “unquestionably has hamstrung the Office of Inspector General’s ability to carry out its statutory mandate to investigate wrongdoing of EPA employees.”

Indeed, a Feb. 24, 2014 letter from EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. to Sen. Dave Vitter (R-LA) stated, “Over the past 12 months, there have been several EPA officials who have taken action to prevent OI [the Office of Investigations] from conducting investigations or have attempted to obstruct investigations through intimidation.”

One can only guess at the political motivation behind expending energy to block an investigation of someone who has been vacationing for 13 years on taxpayers’ dime. After all, one would think the EPA has other things occupying its time.

Like pornography, for instance.

No, that’s not a bad joke. But it is bad. It seems that while the EPA OIG was investigating “employee misconduct,” the office found that one employee had stored pornographic material on the agency’s network and admitted to spending between two and six work hours per day viewing it. In all, he had downloaded and viewed more than 7,000 pornographic files while on the job.

But sexual titillation isn’t the only thing keeping those EPA folks busy. Investigations also found that one manager had let an employee simply stay home for years while fabricating attendance records – to the tune of more than $500,000. Meanwhile, another senior executive covered for an employee who was allowed to telework for more than 20 years – while producing hardly any work.

With so much on their environmentally friendly plates, it’s hard to imagine how anyone at the EPA has time to block investigations, let alone regulate the universe. Then again, who needs time to work when you’re simply a political puppet of the administration?

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