A top official in the EPA’s Homeland Security office accused of assaulting a federal agent and stonewalling the agent’s investigation says he’s been unfairly smeared in a “campaign of harassment” by the press and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
In a letter to congressional investigators, an attorney for Steve Williams, the Environmental Protection Agency adviser, denied he’s contributed to a hostile work environment in the controversial office.
Lawyer Jonathan Biran released the letter Wednesday, but it was sent in May to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It is the first public account by Mr. Williams of a confrontation between he and inspector general investigator Elisabeth Drake Heller, who said he acted belligerently toward her and stonewalled an investigation, the exact subject of which has not been disclosed.
She filed an assault complaint that prompted the Federal Protective Services to issue an arrest warrant, but the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to press charges.
In his letter, however, Mr. Williams‘ lawyer called the decision by prosecutors “fully appropriate.” He also noted that his client never appeared threatening and that, at five foot three inches tall, he was much shorter than Ms. Heller and another IG agent.
Referring to the assault complaint, “Mr. Williams told agents several times to leave OHS’ space, and they eventually complied,” Mr. Biran wrote. “At no time during this incident did Mr. Williams touch or threaten to harm [Ms.] Drake.”
But in a separate letter to committee leaders earlier this week, an attorney for Ms. Drake complained that there’s been “no meaningful action” taken by EPA officials since the incident, saying the agency continued to “coddle” Mr. Williams.
The attorney for Ms. Drake also referred to additional reports of “belligerent and obstructive” behavior by Mr. Williams.
The lawyer for Mr. Williams disagreed. He also railed against comments made during a congressional hearing earlier this year by Bob Perciasepe, EPA’s former deputy, who said that other employees had made claims against Mr. Williams.
“Mr. Williams has not been called to defend himself against any such allegations,” Mr. Biran said in the letter. “But since Mr. Perciasepe inappropriately mentioned these allegations … Mr. Williams has not acted improperly toward any other OHS employees or anyone else within EPA.”
The IG's office has expressed concerns that the Homeland Security office has gone far afield of its mission as a policy arm of the EPA, with one official telling lawmakers it had morphed into a “rogue” law enforcement agency.