- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A program analyst at the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent up to three hours a day for five years working on private business deals — including once arranging to supply lap dancers for a private party — while he was supposed to be doing government work.

Another HUD employee — an auditor — was investigated for running a trucking business from her government office, according to investigative records obtained by The Washington Times.

In both cases, the investigators referred their findings to prosecutors, who declined to press criminal charges, sending the cases back to HUD officials, who let both employees remain on the job.

Government employees have come under scrutiny as reports of time and attendance fraud have mount.

In cases at the Environmental Protection Agency, one employee ditched work under the guise of being a CIA spy and another spent up to six hours a day looking at pornography on government time.

“I can probably count all the people on two hands I’ve seen fired,” Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican, said at a hearing last week into the EPA misconduct. “But something needs to be changed when people are breaking the law, when you have this GS-14 sitting there abusing his position, his salary, ripping off the taxpayers.”

PHOTOS: Eye-popping excuses in American political scandals

The HUD employees’ names were redacted in investigative memos released to The Times through an open-records request. But The Times has identified the program analyst as J’Vaughn Hawkins. He works in the grants management section of HUD’s public and Indian housing office.

Mr. Hawkins declined to comment Tuesday when reached by phone at HUD.

When investigators scoured his email account in 2012, they found hundreds of messages about his real estate work, but they also came across messages about landscaping and chauffeuring and one email in which he “offered to provide women to serve drinks and to provide lap dances during a boxing match,” records show.

Mr. Hawkins told investigators he did supply one woman but didn’t get paid what he was owed.

Investigators said he used his HUD email to refer tenants to landlords and received a cut of the first month’s rent payment in return. Use of the government email was troubling because it could lead to perceptions that he was representing HUD, according to a memo from the inspector general’s office.

In a statement to investigators, Mr. Hawkins apologized for his actions. “I have attempted to help people with grants and with basketball and with real estate.

“I am very sorry that I did not use good judgement and I am willing to pay back for the time that I was negligent any amount that would compensate for my actions,” he wrote.

Mr. Hawkins received a 30-day suspension.

The Times identified the name of the auditor, Deona Madden, who was found to have been running a trucking business from her post in HUD’s office of public and Indian housing.

Reached by phone, Ms. Madden said problems in her office’s information technology department left her and many of her colleagues unable to work for long stretches during a nearly two-year span.

“I was doing personal stuff and I was honest with them,” she said in an interview. “But I wasn’t the only one doing personal stuff.”

In a rebuttal she sent to HUD, which Ms. Madden provided to The Times, she said she has seen others engage in online shopping or checking their Facebook accounts.

Saying she was deeply remorseful, Ms. Madden told HUD that she was naive for thinking she could conduct a few personal business transactions while at work.

“I am not attempting to make any excuses for my behavior, but I can confidently state that I was not the only one conducting personal business while at work,” she wrote.

She received a two-week suspension.

Jerry Brown, a HUD spokesman, declined to comment on either case, citing a departmental policy against discussing personnel issues in the media.

At another agency, even a federal indictment wasn’t enough to get an employee off the government payroll.

Records released by the Department of Interior through a separate open-records request show officials took three months to suspend Shelly Pipe without pay after the government loan specialist was indicted on federal conspiracy charges in 2010.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs employee was sentenced to 45 months in prison for her role in a government loan scam. The indictment against Pipe was made public on Feb. 17, 2010, but she continued getting paychecks until April 20, collecting nearly $11,000 in salary while under federal indictment.

In a case memo, Interior’s office of inspector general reported that one Bureau of Indian Affairs official was told “the indictment itself was not enough to support a removal action.”

The Interior Department declined to comment to The Times.

Last week, lawmakers from both sides questioned why officials at the Environmental Protection Agency hadn’t removed several employees investigated for misconduct.

Renee Page, director of administration, who received the prestigious Presidential Rank Award in 2010, sold jewelry and weight-loss products from work and hired 17 family members and friends for paid internships, according to the EPA inspector general’s office and lawmakers.

Another EPA career employee, whom officials have not identified, spent two to six hours a day since 2010 looking up pornography while managing to earn performance awards, according to the inspector general’s office.

At the Treasury Department, a U.S. Mint employee who admitted spending two to three hours a day looking up dating websites managed to hold on to his job after serving a 45-day suspension, according to department records.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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