The House Oversight and Government Reform committee held a hearing Wednesday morning to question Environmental Protection Agency officials about the rampant employee misconduct tainting their agency.
Ahead of the interrogation, the Oversight panel launched an investigation into the EPA and found several instances of employee fraud, weed and porn possession, and thousands of dollars in theft from the agency, and therefore taxpayers.
How did leadership respond? With slaps on the wrist.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) picked just one egregious example from their findings to ask EPA Acting Deputy Administrator Stanley Meiburg how the agency decided that a 30-day suspension for an employee who pled guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from the agency would be the best punishment?
“There were many factors a deciding official uses” to render punishments, Meiburg said defensively. “I am obligated to consider all of those.” At the time, Meiburg said he was aware of only $3,000 being stolen and deferred the blame to the regional administrators.
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) pushed another EPA witness on the issue. He asked Patrick Sullivan, the assistant inspector general for investigations, how an employee who was found with weed possession was placed on paid administration leave for seven and a half months.
Sullivan admitted there was “massive abuse” prior to changes of the rules. The new policy, he said, limits administrative leave to 10 days.
Hice couldn’t help exposing the agency’s double standard. The EPA “routinely goes after businesses for much less serious offenses and throws fine after fine at them,” he noted. In comparison, the agency does little to reprimand its own employees who engage in criminal behavior.
The hypocrisy is “disgusting,” he concluded.
Why would the EPA do this? Would the private sector allow it?
After asking these important questions, Hice urged the EPA to send someone to Capitol Hill who they can hold directly accountable.
“We need somebody who we can fire.”