Watchdog found EPA employees kept on payroll by Trump appointees after they were fired: report

Watchdog found EPA employees kept on payroll by Trump appointees after they were fired: report
© Greg Nash

Two former employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were kept on payroll by political appointees of former President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE after they were ousted, the agency’s watchdog found.

Former chief of staff Ryan Jackson and former White House liaison Charles Muñoz allegedly directed nearly $38,000 in payments to the employees, according to a report from the EPA’s inspector general first obtained by Politico.

The report also stated that Muñoz received an improper raise and submitted “fraudulent timesheets,” costing the agency nearly $96,000.

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“Mr. Muñoz explained that the 'fix,' which he believed was Mr. Jackson's idea, was to tell the EPA's Human Resources Management Division that [the person] was on an extended telework schedule so that [they] would receive pay,” the report said, according to Politico. 

“Mr. Muñoz explained that he believed Mr. Jackson would not be happy if he had not followed Mr. Jackson's order to get additional pay for [the person] after [their] termination," the watchdog continued.

According to The Washington Post, one of the employees in question was Madeline Morris, who was terminated as scheduler for former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt in August 2017.

Morris has publicly said that she believed she was fired because she raised concerns that making changes to Pruitt’s schedule over a trip to Italy was unlawful.

Jackson reportedly told Morris “we’ll take care of you” by providing “severance pay,” according to the Post, but such pay is not allowed.

The report found that Jackson allegedly directed Muñoz to tell human resources that Morris was on an extended telework schedule, and that Muñoz amended her time-and-attendance reports so that she could continue getting paid.

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The other employee was Kevin Chmielewski, who was forced to leave in 2018 after serving as deputy chief of staff of operations. Chmielewski continued receiving pay through April 2018, despite not working for the EPA after February of that same year.

Chmielewski leaked documents and provided information that prompted several EPA investigations. He previously told The Hill that he would “take the credit” for Pruitt’s downfall.

Chmielewski later sued the EPA, claiming that he was “removed for retaliatory reasons.”

Pruitt resigned as administrator in July 2018 amid multiple high-profile scandals surrounding his spending and management at the agency.

The Hill has reached out to the EPA for further information.