Issa: EPA ‘truly a broken agency’

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) opened a hearing Wednesday on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) relationship with its Office of Inspector General (OIG) by declaring that EPA “is truly a broken agency” and accusing EPA officials of obstructing OIG’s work.

Issa, chairman of the Oversight Committee, said EPA and its homeland security office have tried to blog OIG’s investigation into personnel practices following the case of John Beale, who pled guilty last year to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars by not working while pretending to be a CIA agent.

“John’s Beale behavior did not happen in a vacuum,” Issa said in his opening statement at the hearing. “In fact, it was just the tip of the EPA’s fraudulent iceberg.”

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Issa listed multiple other personnel issues that his staff and OIG have discovered since Beale’s case came to light. An employee allegedly hired her own daughter and gave her special awards and bonuses, another worker was accused to not working for years while getting paid and yet another moved to a nursing home and kept getting paid, Issa said.

But the Wednesday hearing focused on OIG’s investigation of John Martin, an employee in EPA’s homeland security office. Elisabeth Heller Drake, an OIG agent, said Martin was uncooperative when she interviewed him.

Steven Williams, another EPA employee, yelled at Drake and invaded her personal space after she attempted to interview Martin, she said. EPA leaders later asked OIG to stand down on its probe.

“EPA leadership has engaged in an effort to keep the IG from doing its job,” Issa said, accusing the agency of “obstructing the inspector general’s work.”

In addition, EPA’s homeland security office “has no statutory authority to be a law-enforcement organization,” Issa said.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the committee’s top Democrat, said in his opening statement that the dispute boils down to a disagreement over jurisdiction concerning employee misconduct issues.