House plans hearing on alleged EPA investigation obstruction

The House Oversight Committee has scheduled a hearing this week on allegations that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has obstructed some of its Office of Inspector General’s investigations.

In a Monday notice about the hearing, the committee said it will examine reports that EPA prevented the OIG “from investigating instances of employee misconduct, as well as newly emerging time and attendance fraud concerns.”

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The notice also makes reference to the case of John Beale, an EPA employee who pled guilty last year to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the agency by skipping work while pretending to be a CIA agent.

At an October hearing, witnesses said the Beale case pointed to a failure of controls at EPA that encouraged misconduct. “For that very reason, it is imperative that the IG have open access to the reports, documents, and communications that allow them to conduct thorough investigations.”

The Washington Times reported last week that EPA employee Steve Williams had been aggressive toward OIG agent Elisabeth Heller Drake when she investigated EPA’s homeland security office, and Williams yelled at Drake. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asked OIG to put its investigation on hold following the incident, the Times said.

The Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), will hear from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, OIG’s Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Patrick Sullivan and Sullivan’s deputy Allan Williams at the Wednesday hearing.

Drake will also testify, the committee said.