DHS inspector general vows to fight nepotism allegations in Senate probe

The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security vowed to fight whistle-blower allegations of abuse and mismanagement that have sparked a Senate investigation.

“I will defend myself against these personal attacks,” said DHS Inspector General Charles Edwards. “Allegations can be lodged anonymously by anyone. Truth can be distorted to misrepresent circumstances and make them appear improper when they are not.”

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Edwards was reacting Tuesday to a Senate probe into nine allegations lodged with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel over the past year by “numerous whistle-blowers,” according to the committee.

The charges allege that Edwards violated anti-nepotism laws by employing his wife and retaliating against employees who attempted to bring the misconduct to light, according to a letter sent to Edwards from Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the heads of the Financial and Contracting Oversight subcommittee.

In their letter, McCaskill and Johnson asked Edwards for 16 sets of documents, including communications between the inspector general and his wife, as well as every complaint filed with the office’s hotline against Edwards and his wife.

Edwards said he is concerned that the allegations could have a negative effect on staff morale within the office of inspector general, which could hinder its ability to effectively work through its caseloads.

“I am very disturbed that false allegations have been made against me, but more importantly, I am very concerned that this matter may negatively impact the important oversight work of the Office of Inspector General,” said Edwards in a statement issued from India, where he is currently on vacation with his family.

McCaskill and Johnson have also sought information about allegations that Edwards “intentionally changed” information in the private report his office issued on the Secret Service scandal in Colombia last year, in which agents allegedly paid prostitutes for sex while working on an advance team ahead of President Obama’s visit to the country.

The lawmakers said that whistle-blowers have told them Edwards may have kept “relevant and damaging” information out of the public report his office issued on the incident because he could be “susceptible to political pressure.”

They also have asked Edwards for more information about whether he abused his position as inspector general in his and his wife’s pursuit of Ph.D. degrees from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

They have given Edwards until July 19 to respond officially.