- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The embattled inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security was the target of a number of internal employee complaints for abuse of power before his surprise decision to step down earlier this week, according to new documents shown to The Washington Times by an outside watchdog group.

Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards asked for reassignment to another agency post Tuesday, facing allegations of misconduct and questions about his willingness to work with Congress. He has denied any wrongdoing, and no reason was given for the move.

Cause of Action, a non-partisan government accountability watchdog, has been investigating Mr. Edwards. The group filed requests for information, but eventually had to sue the government to release records on Mr. Edwards‘ travel and complaints received from employees.

The heavily redacted documents finally released by the Homeland Security Department show several employees filed complaints accusing Mr. Edwards of abusing power. In each instance, investigators said the incidents did not reach the threshold for disciplinary action against him.

Mr. Edwards was the acting head of the DHS Inspector General’s office, the agency’s internal watchdog. But he’s faced an investigation from Congress into whether he deliberately stalled an investigation of the Secret Service in an attempt to curry favor with department leaders. He’s also been accused of hiring his wife to work at the IG, then letting her telecommute from India for several months.

Mr. Edwards was set to testify before Congress on Thursday to answer questions about his actions, but the committee hearing was canceled upon news of his resignation earlier this week.

In the documents provided to The Washington Times, both internal complaints were referred to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), which helps establish “a well-trained and highly skilled workforce in the offices of the Inspectors General,” according to the group’s website.

The group declined to further investigate both complaints, saying they did not meet the threshold for review. In a letter to Cause of Action about a separate issue, CIGIE said it “is not charged with or allocated independent resources to conduct audits, investigations, or evaluations.”

That left the outside group wondering who, exactly, is suppose to be watching the IG community.

“These documents reveal credible allegations filed against Edwards concerning his misconduct,” said Dan Epstein, the executive director of Cause of Action. “Since President Obama failed to remove Edwards from office and CIGIE has acknowledged that it doesn’t ‘conduct audits, investigations, or evaluations,’ now the American public will never know if a taxpayer-funded public servant violated the law.”

The first complaint accuses Mr. Edwards of diverting a government vehicle to pick up another individual. Complaints from employees say that while traveling back from Capitol Hill April 19, Mr. Edwards directed the driver of the car to make a stop and pick up another federal employee.

DHS did not disclose additional information, such as who the individual was or what relation they had to Mr. Edwards.

In a letter to investigators, Mr. Edwards called the accusations “frivolous and lacking merit.”

CIGIE said there appeared to be no ethics violations and no misuse of government vehicles since Mr. Edwards had been on Capitol Hill conducting official business and did not deviate from a planned return route.

The second complaint alleges that Mr. Edwards and a second official were “abusing their authority” by not placing a third individual on administrative leave, likely in response to misconduct or inappropriate actions by the individual. What exactly the person is accused of doing was withheld from the report.

CIGIE declined to investigate the matter further, saying it did not meet the threshold necessary for review.

The redacted internal documents have been posted on Cause of Action’s website at http://causeofaction.org/our-work/dhs-oig-charles-edwards.

The IG’s office said that Carlton Mann, the assistant inspector general, would become the acting head of the office, but so far has declined to comment further on the matter.