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The Bureaucrat Who Hardly Ever Worked

Sunday August 30th, 2015   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 1:12pm PDT   •  

Capture In this latest episode of our occasional series Bureaucrats Behaving Badly, we’ll focus on “the case of the federal worker who hardly ever worked,” to borrow the Washington Post‘s own headline! Lisa Rein reports:

A federal patent examiner racked up more than 18 weeks of pay last year for work he didn’t do, but his manager didn’t notice until he received an anonymous letter claiming the employee only showed up for his job sporadically and turned in work that was “garbage.”

The letter turned out to be spot on, according to an investigation released this week by the watchdog for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The examiner, a poor performer for years who was never disciplined, came and went as he pleased, swiping his badge through the turnstile at the patent office headquarters in Alexandria, Va., where he was assigned to work.

He frequently told colleagues he was leaving work to go to the local golf driving range, play pool or grab a beer — then claimed a full day on the job on his time sheet. On most of the days when the examiner was gaming the system, “there was no evidence” he even went to the office or did any work on his government-issued laptop, investigators found.

The article goes on to describe the unidentified patent examiner’s case as “the most egregious example to surface so far of an examiner defrauding the government for work not done.”

But it’s not the worst ever. For that story, we’ll return once again to the halls of the poorly-led and ethically troubled Environmental Protection Agency. Michael Isikoff of NBC News reports on the December 18, 2013, criminal sentencing of John C. Beale, formerly the EPA’s highest-paid employee and also its leading expert on climate change:

John C. Beale’s crimes were “inexplicable” and “unbelievably egregious,” said Judge Ellen Huvelle in imposing the sentence in a Washington. D.C. federal court. Beale has also agreed to pay $1.3 million in restitution and forfeiture to the government.

Beale said he was ashamed of his lies about working for the CIA, a ruse that, according to court records, began in 2000 and continued until early this year.

“Why did I do this? Greed – simple greed – and I’m ashamed of that greed,” Beale told the court. He also said it was possible that he got a “rush” and a “sense of excitement” by telling people he was worked for the CIA. “It was something like an addiction,” he said.

Beale pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits over a decade. He perpetrated his fraud largely by failing to show up at the EPA for months at a time, including one 18-month stretch starting in June 2011 when he did “absolutely no work,” as his lawyer acknowledged in a sentencing memo filed last week.

Beale would appear to still be serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution Cumberland, where he is scheduled to be released on June 1, 2016. The facility has been described in the Washington Post as follows:

The Federal Correctional Institute in Cumberland, Md. is the go-to for white-collar Washington criminals. Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Clinton administration official Webb Hubbell served time at Cumberland, where prisoners are free to leave the premises to do yard work and the like, as long as they return.

One top D.C. defense attorney said his clients describe Cumberland as a “boys dormitory” with food that’s “nothing to write home about.” It’s got a commissary (where canned tuna — which, oddly, is used as a kind of currency in the camp — is sold) and a bare-bones fitness facility. The biggest perk, though, is that prisoners tend to be on their best behavior for fear of being sent somewhere rougher. “Nothing bad happens to you there,” said the attorney.

If you know of a more egregious story involving a federal government bureaucrat who hardly, if ever, works, please share it in the comments!

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August 2015