"It is incredibly disappointing to have to question the independence of the EPA Office of the Inspector General. After months of frustrating Congressional oversight of the Agency, the OIG has left too many questions unanswered in the aftermath of the John Beale investigation," said Vitter. "I can only suspect that the office has abandoned its pledge to Congress to minimize waste, fraud, and abuse at the EPA."
In the letter, Vitter asks the OIG to respond to questions regarding the office's claims of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's involvement in reporting concerns with Beale, as well as other incidents of time and attendance fraud at the Agency and possible intimidation tactics by EPA officials that may have prevented the OIG from conducting a thorough investigation.
February 18, 2014
The Honorable Arthur A. Elkins, Jr.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Mr. Elkins:
I write to express grave concerns with recent activities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General (OIG). Congressional oversight of the Agency has been frustrated by your office, including certain investigators, and the failure of your office to be forthright in a series of investigations, including the John C. Beale investigation. As you are aware, my staff broached these concerns in an in-person meeting with you, to which I echoed during our phone conversations. Despite these concerns, my office has endeavored to work with your office to achieve the overarching goal of minimizing waste, fraud and abuse at the EPA. Unfortunately, the OIG has left too many questions unanswered, which leads me to suspect that your office has abandoned its obligation under the law to be independent from agency interference. In an effort to ameliorate these concerns, I ask for complete and thorough responses to the following questions no later than February 24, 2014:
1. Your office repeatedly stated on the record that Gina McCarthy was the first senior official to express concerns with Beale, and that her leadership is what made the investigation and conviction possible.
a) Please provide all evidence that substantiates your claim that McCarthy reported concerns about Beale to the Office of General Counsel (OGC) on or around November 1, 2012. Your response should include any record memorializing this action and should include a description of the concerns that were expressed, as well as guidance provided on actions to be taken.
b) Why did you view the issue of Beale's CIA status to be a human resource issue? What information did you rely on in your initial opinion that it was an HR issue? What research was conducted before you provided Craig Hooks with such guidance?
c) On December 16, 2013, my staff specifically identified and requested a memorandum dated January 12, 2011, addressed to Gina McCarthy. In response, your staff responded to my staff, "that there is not a memorandum of that date to Gina McCarthy." However, as you know, I subsequently obtained this very document that allegedly did not exist. Why did your staff provide my office with incorrect information?
d) A February 1, 2011, email stated "Gina is reluctant to finalize [cancelation of Beale's bonuses] unless OARM Craig gives her the okay that the White House is aware and there will not be any political fallout." Please identify the steps the OIG took to determine whether or not the White House influenced in any way the Agency's response to Beale. Your response should include whether the OIG sought to interview any White House officials. If so, please identify and provide documentation of those interviewed. If not, please explain why the OIG did not investigate White House involvement.
2. In the Early Warning Action Reports on Beale's pay and travel issues, the OIG explained that one staff attorney in the OGC refused to be interviewed, as required under Section 6(a) of the Inspector General Act. Please explain in detail the information this individual may have and what gaps exist as a result of her noncompliance. Please describe if any corrective action has been recommended or taken against this individual.
a) Have other EPA officials refused to cooperate with any aspects of the Beale investigation? If so, identify and provide documentation of individuals refusing to cooperate, and describe the specific corrective actions your office has taken to ensure a complete and thorough investigation.
b) Are you aware of any EPA officials intimidating or otherwise taking actions to prevent the OIG from conducting investigations?
c) Has Administrator McCarthy ever instructed the OIG to take a particular course of action during an investigation? Have you withdrawn, or directed staff to withdraw, from any portion of an investigation, at the direction of Administrator McCarthy? If so, please identify what OIG investigations have been halted at the direction of Administrator McCarthy and under what authority.
I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works