Blogs - Blogs
Eye on the EPA: Robert Brenner's Role in John Beale Saga
February 6, 2014

In an effort to further inform the public on how convicted felon and former senior official of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), John Beale, got away with fraud and theft for at least thirteen years, EPW Republicans have conducted an exhaustive review of materials obtained through its own investigatory efforts to untangle the web of unaccountability that permeated the Agency.  Former EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator Robert Brenner, Beale's colleague and self-described "best friend"[1] played a large role, either knowing or unknowing, in the Beale fraud. 

Colleagues and Friends

"When the opportunity arose to help develop the new Clean Air Act, I was able to convince my best friend from those days, John Beale M.P.A. '77 to join me in the effort" - Robert Brenner[2]

In 1975, Beale and Brenner met in graduate school, [3] and maintained close contact throughout the years, even jointly purchasing a two-bedroom vacation home in Cape Cod from Beale's parents,[4] and socializing frequently with their respective wives, ranging from frequent dinners[5] to Valentine's Day celebrations[6] to volunteering for the Obama presidential campaign.[7]

It was well known within EPA that Brenner and Beale "spen[t] a lot of time together outside of work going out to eat, playing golf and going on vacations together."[8] After working at the EPA together for more than two decades-an experience that Brenner described to Beale as having "lucked out" by spending "23 years of working with my best friend to try to make some good things happen"[9]-the two planned a joint retirement party in September 2011,[10] which was paid for on Brenner's wife's credit card.[11]  Along with Beale and Brenner, another career EPA official from the Office of Air and Radiation, Jeffrey Clark, decided to retire with them.[12]  In referring to the retirement party, Beale explained that he, Brenner, and Clark had "kind of all been like the three Musketeers on the Clean Air Act."[13]

Looking Out for Beale at EPA

Brenner hired Beale to his first position with the Agency,[14] and filed an "Advance in Hire" memorandum, requesting that EPA start Beale at the maximum general service pay level,[15] which is extremely rare.[16] It was also revealed that Beale's initial application for employment included falsified information that Brenner relied on to make the hire happen.[17]

Whether serving as Beale's equal or as his direct supervisor, Brenner nominated Beale for several bonuses.[18]  The facts give rise to serious concerns for Beale's 1991 and 2000 retention incentive bonus. Specifically, Brenner's recommendation for Beale to receive the 1991 bonus indicated that Beale had received outside offers of employment, yet the OIG uncovered that Beale, in fact, had received no written firm offer from an outside company.[19]  Brenner has testified that he was not able to recall how he verified that Beale had an outside offer, but explained that, "I either talked to the employer or have received a letter. But I know that without one of those two things being in place, there is no way it could have been approved."[20] 

Beale's own testimony contradicts that of Brenner, as he claims that no one at EPA ever asked him for proof that he, in fact, had a job offer.[21]  According to Beale, the retention bonuses were just provided to him without his prompting.[22]

Around the same time, Brenner also recommended Beale for a promotion to Senior Leader ("SL") status,[23] making Beale among the highest paid, non-elected federal government employees.[24]  Notably, the promotion and bonuses Brenner requested eventually elevated Beale's salary to exceed the statutory threshold for employees at his pay grade from 2007 to 2010.[25]

Covering for Beale

In 1994, while Brenner was Beale's supervisor, Beale assumed the false identity of a CIA agent.  According to Beale, he perpetrated this lie to "puff up the image of [himself]."[26]  For a period of this time, public records indicate Beale lived with Brenner at his home in Arlington, Virginia for over a year.[27]  This time together, perhaps, might help to explain why EPA staff looked to Brenner to confirm Beale's stories.  According to Beth Craig, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation, she specifically recalled asking Brenner if Beale worked for the CIA and was told "yes."[28]  Craig added:

It is important to understand that everything was corrborated by Robert Brenner about John Beale.  When she asked Mr. Brenner questions about Mr. Beale's attendance and health, she would be told that John will be in tomorrow... he is feeling better.[29]

Beginning in 2000, the same year Brenner promoted Beale and requested a reauthorization of Beale's bonuses, Beale admittedly "began to engage in a pattern of time and attendance fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §641," by taking one unauthorized day off each week for "covert operations at the CIA."[30]  According to the Department of Justice, "Beale did not submit request for annual leave for this time, and did not inform his supervisors [including Brenner] as to the reason for his absences,"[31] but was never reprimanded for his time out of the office.[32] 

Starting in June 2008, Beale failed to report to work at EPA for about six months,[33] claiming to be working on a research project or spending time working for "Langley" on candidate protection for the CIA.[34]  Throughout his absence, he did not submit a leave request, yet continued to receive his EPA salary.[35] The EPA's Conduct and Discipline Manual states that failure to report to duty for more than five consecutive days is a fire-able offense.[36]

During this time, Beale regularly met with Brenner.[37]

Brenner's Failure to Cooperate with Congress

After Beale's fraud was exposed, Brenner has refused to be interviewed by EPA's OIG and has been as equally uncooperative in his dealings with EPW Ranking Member David Vitter.  In response to a series of questions posed in a letter from Vitter,[38] Brenner responded with only short, perfunctory answers to a few of the questions, frequently citing his prepared statement for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, and repeatedly asserting that he was "unable to recount" or "recall" the answers.[39]  Ultimately, Brenner followed up with a letter announcing his refusal to cooperate with the Senate investigation.[40]

Evidence suggests that Brenner played a pivotal role in enabling Beale's fraud, whether that fraud was accepting unearned bonuses, stealing time from EPA, or impersonating a CIA official, Brenner's actions both enabled and covered for John Beale.  It is unclear whether Brenner's actions were done with the intent of aiding and abetting Beale's crimes or out of willful ignorance.  Either way, Brenner should be called on to account for his actions.

 

Click here to read Eye on the EPA: Bob Perciasepe's Role in John Beale Saga.

Click here to read Eye on the EPA: Gina McCarthy's Role in John Beale Saga.

 



[1] Compare Robert Brenner Graduate Alumni Profile, Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs, http://wws.princeton.edu/qzalumni/testimonials/brenner/ (last visited Sept. 9, 2013), with Email from Robert Brenner to John Beale (June 1, 2011, 04:34 EST).

[2] Robert Brenner Graduate Alumni Profile, Princeton University Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs, http://wws.princeton.edu/qzalumni/testimonials/brenner/ (last visited Sept. 9, 2013).

[3] Secret Agent Man? Oversight of EPA's IG Investigation of John Beale: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Oct. 1, 2013) (testimony of Robert Brenner); id. (statement of Patrick Sullivan); Transcript of John C. Beale Deposition at 11-12, H. Comm on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Dec. 19, 2013) [hereinafter Deposition of John C. Beale], available at http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Beale-Deposition.pdf.

[4] Search for Property Records of John C. Beale (LEXIS); see also Search for Property Records of John C. Beale, Massachusetts Land Records, http://www.masslandrecords.com.

[5] See, e.g., E-mail from John Beale to Robert Brenner (Dec. 16, 2011, 11:35 EST) ; E-mail from Robert Brenner to John Beale (Nov. 6, 2008, 10:02 EST); Email from Robert Brenner to John Beale (Sept. 25, 2008, 14:08 EST) ; E-mail from Robert Brenner to John Beale (July 20, 2008, 01:49 EST) ; E-mail from Barbara Brenner, wife of Robert Brenner, to John Beale (Nov. 29, 2007, 14:49 EST) ; E-mail from John Beale to Robert Brenner (Nov. 6, 2006, 09:27 EST).

[6] See Email from John Beale to Robert Brenner (Feb. 14, 2012, 12:32 EST).

[7] See E-mail from Nancy Kete to Robert Brenner, John Beale, and Barbara Brenner (Nov. 4, 2008, 11:30 EST).

[8] See, e.g., Memorandum of Interview of Addie Johnson from Off. of Inspector Gen, U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency 3 (Apr. 10, 2013).

[9] E-mail from Robert Brenner to John Beale (June 1, 2011, 04:34 EDT).

[10] Secret Agent Man? Oversight of EPA's IG Investigation of John Beale: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Oct. 1, 2013) (statement of Patrick Sullivan).

[11] See E-mail from Staff, Off. of Inspector Gen., U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency, to Republican Staff, U.S. Senate Comm. on Env't & Pub. Works (Nov. 15, 2013, 14:08 EST).

[12] See Deposition of John C. Beale, supra  note 3, at 191.

[13] Id.

[14] Sentencing Memorandum of John C. Beale, supra note 4, at 5.

[15] See Off. of Personnel Mgmt., Rates of Pay Under the General Schedule Effective the first pay period beginning on or after January 1, 1989, available at http://archive.opm.gov/oca/pre1994/1989_Jan_GS.pdf (documenting the General Schedule for the year Beale was hired). Grades beyond GS-15, Step 10 were eliminated in 1978. See Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-454, 92 Stat. 1111 (codified as amended at 5 U.S.C. ch. 11 (2006)).

[16] See U.S. Merit Systems Protections Board, In Search of Highly Skilled Workers: A Study on the Hiring of Upper Level Employees From Outside the Federal Government (2008), available at http://www.mspb.gov/netsearch/viewdocs.aspx?docnumber=323118&version=323564&application=ACROBAT.

[17] Secret Agent Man? Oversight of EPA's IG Investigation of John Beale: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Oct. 1, 2013) (statement of Patrick Sullivan).

[18] Id. (statement of Patrick Sullivan).

[19] Id. (testimony of Patrick Sullivan).

[20] Id. (testimony of Robert Brenner)

[21] Deposition of John C. Beale, supra note 3, at 38-39.

[22] Id.

[23] Secret Agent Man? Oversight of EPA's IG Investigation of John Beale: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Oct. 1, 2013) (statement of Patrick Sullivan).

[24] Statement of the Offense at 2, United States v. Beale, No. 1:13-cr-00247-ESH (D.D.C. Sept. 27, 2013).

[25] Secret Agent Man? Oversight of EPA's IG Investigation of John Beale: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Oct. 1, 2013) (statement of Patrick Sullivan).

[26] Id.; see also Transcript of John C. Beale Deposition, supra note 3, at 27.

[27] See Search for Property Records of John C. Beale (LEXIS); Search for Property Records of Robert Brenner (LEXIS).

[28] Memorandum of Interview of Elizabeth Craig from Off. of Inspector Gen, U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency 3 (Apr. 10, 2013).

[29] Id.

[30] Sentencing Memorandum of John C. Beale, supra note 4, at 16.

[31] Statement of the Offense, supra note 46, at 2.

[32] See Secret Agent Man? Oversight of EPA's IG Investigation of John Beale: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Oct. 1, 2013) (statement of Patrick Sullivan).

[33] Statement of the Offense, supra note 46, at 4.

[34] See Deposition of John C. Beale, supra note 3, at 146.

[35] Id.

[36] Envtl. Protection Agency Order 3120.1, Conduct and Discipline.

[37] E-mail from John Beale to Robert Brenner (Oct. 29, 2008, 02:41 EST) ; E-mail from John Beale to Robert Brenner (Aug. 5, 2008, 18:15 EST).

[38] See Letter from the Hon. David Vitter, Ranking Member, S. Comm. on Env't & Pub. Works, to Robert Brenner (Sept. 9, 2013).

[39] See Letter from Justin Shur, Counsel to Robert Brenner, to Kristina Moore, Senior Counsel for Oversight, S. Comm. on Env't & Pub. Works (Oct. 4, 2013) (citing Secret Agent Man? Oversight of EPA's IG Investigation of John Beale: Hearing Before the H. Comm. on Oversight & Gov't Reform, 113th Cong. (Oct. 1, 2013) (statement of Robert Brenner)).

[40] Letter from Justin Shur, Counsel to Robert Brenner, to Kristina Moore, Senior Counsel for Oversight, S. Comm. on Env't & Pub. Works (Nov. 8, 2013).





Majority Office
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-8832
Minority Office
456 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-6176