Two high-ranking Donald Trump appointees in the Environmental Protection Agency intentionally continued to pay two employees their salaries long after they were fired, according to a jaw-dropping report by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General.
The investigation also determined that the Trump appointees, who are no longer at the EPA, committed other fraud, including padding timesheets, and one giving the other an improper pay increase, that cost the EPA more than $130,000, The Washington Post reported. The fired employees collected $38,000 after their termination, according to the report.
Former EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson and former White House liaison Charles Munoz “made and used official time sheets and personnel forms that contained materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to facilitate continued payments to two employees after they had left the agency, concluded the report, issued in March, which was first obtained by Politico through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Federal prosecutors declined to press charges on any of the OIG’s findings.
Munoz reportedly told investigators that he was told by Jackson to continue to pay the first of the employees, who was fired in 2017 and whose name was redacted in the report.
“Mr. Munoz explained that the ‘fix,’ which he believed was Mr. Jackson’s idea, was to tell the EPA’s Human Resources Management Division that [the fired employee] was on an extended telework schedule so that [the worker] would receive pay” after their termination, the report said, according to the Post.
Jackson told investigators that he arranged to continue to pay the fired worker because he didn’t think the termination was “fair,” according to the report.
Jackson wanted to continue to pay the second employee, whose name was also redacted, while he looked for work after his termination in 2018, the report stated.
The Post revealed the names of the fired employees. The one fired in 2018 said that “weeks and months went by where I was still receiving a paycheck,” but not working.
Both terminated employees had objected to deletions of events on then Trump-appointed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s public calendar, including a dinner in Rome with a Vatican cardinal who was later charged with sexual misconduct, according to the Post.
The findings are only the latest black eye for the EPA, which developed a reputation as the Anti-Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration.
Pruitt eventually resigned the summer of 2018 after he was targeted in 13 federal investigations, including examinations of his eyebrow-raising spending.
The agency had a little trouble even before Trump moved into the White House.
The OIG discovered in 2013 during the Obama administration that a warehouse maintained by contractors for the agency contained secret “man cave” rooms of exercise equipment, televisions and couches. The following year, EPA employees were ordered not to defecate in the hallway of an agency building in Colorado.
Check out the Post’s story on the latest EPA scandal here, and Politico’s piece here.
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