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Bureaucrats Behaving Badly

Monday August 4th, 2014   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:55am PDT   •  

4 What’s the latest perk enjoyed by federal government bureaucrats while on the job?

It would appear to involve surfing for porn on the Internet. Jim McElhatton of the Washington Times reports:

For one Federal Communications Commission worker, his porn habit at work was easy to explain: Things were slow, he told investigators, so he perused it “out of boredom” — for up to eight hours each week.

Lack of work has emerged time and again in federal investigations, and it’s not just porn, nor is it confined to the FCC. Across government, employees caught wasting time at work say they simply didn’t have enough work to do, according to investigation records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.


A spokesman for the FCC declined to comment on what, if any, action the agency took after the FCC’s inspector general singled out the eight-hour-a-week porn peeper.

McElhatton summarizes episodes of documented misconduct at the Government Services Administration (GSA) and as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where bureaucrats are getting away with the kind of behavior that would lead to employee terminations at real jobs in the private sector:

In another recent case, a GSA employee who spent about two hours a day on a computer looking at pornography and dating sites “sometimes became bored during these long hours at the computer and would often use the computer for personal use to pass the time,” according to a case report by the GSA inspector general last year.

In a more recent and far more costly example, U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board paralegals received salaries and bonuses for years even though they spent much of their time watching television, shopping online, exercising and wasting time on their tablet computers, according to an investigation released this week by the Commerce Department’s inspector general. Investigators estimate that more than $4 million was spent paying employees for time they weren’t working.

A common theme that is emerging among all these stories of waste is the absence of corrective actions on the part of politically appointed and career managers at federal government agencies. One of the worst examples of that lack of effective administrative oversight has become evident at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as reported by Government Executive‘s Charles S. Clark:

Tensions between the inspector general and main staff at the Environmental Protection Agency spilled into the open on Wednesday at a House oversight hearing that veered into EPA’s inability to prevent individual employee misconduct ranging from porn viewing on the job, to falsifying attendance records, to an alleged workplace assault on an investigative agent.

“The EPA is truly a broken agency,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in reeling off a string of stories of personnel misconduct still under adjudication in the wake of the December sentencing of EPA air quality specialist John Beale to 32 months in prison for bilking the agency of salary and expenses while performing little work under the guise of moonlighting for the CIA. What ties these stories together, according to Issa, is that the IG’s office is being blocked from uncovering the facts.

The cases, detailed by witnesses from the inspector general’s office, include a $120,000 a year, bonus-winning, still active employee who spent two to six hours a day visiting porn websites and downloading 7,000 pornographic files to an agency shared server. Another involves the human resources manager who failed to spot Beale’s fraudulent explanations for his absences, and a third involves an ill employee confined for a year in an assisted living facility but still collecting full pay.

A fourth, perhaps most dramatic, episode involves an allegation that Steven Williams of EPA’s Office of Homeland Security in October 2013 committed an “assault” on Office of the Inspector General special agent Elisabeth Heller Drake in an EPA hallway as she sought to inform him of his obligation to remain silent about what she termed her “difficult” interview with him on an investigation.

The EPA, of course, is the federal government agency that had to direct the employees at its regional office in Denver, Colorado, to stop its employees from “placing feces in the hallway.”

All in all, what these episodes suggest is that the top federal officials at these government agencies are tolerating hostile work environments at multiple federal government workplaces that are rapidly becoming defined by their dysfunctional cultures.

Featured Image:
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (presumably working).

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August 2014