Ethics violations, child porn among recent EPA employee offenses

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employee pleaded guilty to accessing child pornography in 2012 on a website he used his EPA email to access, the agency’s internal watchdog said Tuesday.

The revelation came in a report from EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) detailing the 16 employee integrity cases the office closed between October 2013 and March 2014, ranging from the child pornography case to a manager who thought his office was bugged.

The report did not disclose any employees’ names. The employee who pled guilty to child pornography was sentenced to five years of probation and retired from EPA during OIG’s investigation, which was closed during the report’s time span.

EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson said that the agency has not seen the OIG’s findings in the child pornography case, but it fully supports the investigation. “EPA has in place a number of controls to prevent employee access to inappropriate content from its networks and is constantly working to upgrade and improve those controls,” Johnson said.

Some of the cases involved ethics violations, such as a political appointee who accepted a gift of travel and a flight in a private jet from a lobbyist. EPA attorneys spoke to the employee, but the agency did not take further actions.

Johnson said EPA takes ethics violations very seriously.

“While the cases outlined in the summary are closed, EPA will review the summary and take any additional actions needed upon completion of the review,” she said.

Some accusations were found to be unsubstantiated after agents investigated them, like an employee who was accused of releasing information that should have stayed within the agency and one who allegedly threatened co-workers.

OIG’s report came a week after the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on EPA’s personnel issues and agency actions that OIG said were meant to interfere with investigations.

At that hearing, OIG officials disclosed that recent investigations found that an employee had viewed pornography on his work computer for two to six hours a day and employees that got paid without working, among other misconduct allegations.

OIG releases employee misconduct reports twice a year. As of March 31 it had 78 integrity cases open, five of which involved political appointees.

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