The Environmental Protection Agency was forced to pay $55,000 to get an employee to retire because the EPA was unable to fire him, even though he was a convicted child molester who also imitated a police officer, officials testified Wednesday.
The settlement was discussed at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on EPA employee misconduct Wednesday. Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said that was one of the most egregious cases of employee misconduct and misuse of taxpayer dollars.
Stan Meiburg, acting deputy administrator at the EPA, said the agency attempted to fire the employee but the Merit Systems Protection Board, which adjudicates personnel decisions, overturned the decision. Instead, the agency paid the employee $55,000 to retire and leave the agency, he said. That shocked Chaffetz.
"It's just pretty stunning," he said. "How do we need to change the Merit Systems Protection Board, because we're not protecting the American taxpayer and we're not protecting the employees who have to sit next to this freak of a pervert."
Patrick Sullivan, the assistant inspector general for investigations for the EPA's Office of the Inspector General, said there are currently 90 EPA employee misconduct cases pending. Fourteen of those have been turned over to the agency for review while the rest are in various stages of investigation.
Among the cases detailed during Thursday's hearing were an EPA contractor who admitted to watching pornography while on the job for one or two hours per day for 18 years before being fired, and an employee who stole thousands of dollars of office equipment and is still employed by the agency despite being convicted of theft, among others.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said he found the reports disturbing but found the fact that many employees who were found guilty of misconduct were allowed to either stay on the job or retire was more troubling.
"Nobody gets fired. Most people who get out retire," he said. "Civil service was not set up to protect these folks, it was set up to protect folks from political motivation."
"This has to be demoralizing for the thousands and thousands of hard-working EPA officials, to see these people who are either involved in misconduct or misappropriation, they were stealing money, and I can't find a single instance in which anybody was fired," he said.
Meiburg said the EPA has worked to improve its internal processes for dealing with employee misconduct in recent years. Sullivan agreed that the agency has improved drastically in the last year, and cautioned lawmakers against slamming all EPA workers for the actions for a few.
"The isolated misconduct of a few does not reflect and must not overshadow the hard work of over 15,000 EPA employees who dedicate themselves every day to the agency," Meiburg said.