- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2014

Congress’s top investigator has told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to resolve a long-running dispute that Rep. Darrell Issa says is undermining the agency inspector general’s ability to investigate misconduct.

In a letter to Ms. McCarthy last week, Mr. Issa said she has done little to resolve the dispute between the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general, which was set up by Congress to root out fraud and abuse, and the EPA’s homeland security office, which has no statutory authority.

Mr. Issa, California Republican, said the inspector general’s work “continues to be compromised” by the feud with the homeland security office, which the inspector general said interfered in the early stages of the probe into notorious time and attendance fraudster John Beale, a high ranking EPA official now in prison after he pretended to be a CIA spy, bilking the agency of nearly $900,000 in pay.

The homeland security office also came under scrutiny when one of its executives was accused of assault by an inspector general agent, Elisabeth Heller Drake. Ms. Drake told Congress that a senior official, Steve Williams, displayed “inexplicable anger and aggressiveness” when she went to the office as part of an ongoing investigation.

The incident resulted in an arrest warrant affidavit, but prosecutors declined to press charges.

“The committee remains deeply concerned about the apparent lack of progress on any of these fronts,” Mr. Issa told Ms. McCarthy in the letter.

Ms. Drake’s lawyer wrote to Mr. Issa last month complaining that the EPA was coddling Mr. Williams and failing to follow up on accusations against him.

David R. Schleicher, the lawyer, said Monday that he was happy to see Mr. Issa press the issue.

“We are grateful for the committee’s ongoing, bipartisan efforts to ensure that these critical matters are resolved,” Mr. Schleicher told The Washington Times in an email.

Mr. Williams has denied any wrongdoing, saying he’s been the target of a “campaign of harassment” by the press and Capitol Hill lawmakers, according to a letter his attorney released to The Times last month.

On Monday, Jonathan Biran, Mr. Williams‘ lawyer, said in an email that Mr. Williams has asked the Department of Homeland Security inspector general to investigate the assault allegations against his client, which he called false.

“To Mr. Williams‘ knowledge, no claims of workplace misconduct against him have been substantiated” Mr. Biran said. “Any such claim of workplace misconduct is false. However, continued publicity about unsubstantiated allegations appears designed to irreparably harm Mr. Williams before a full and unbiased investigation of events at EPA can be concluded.”

Liz Purchia, an EPA spokeswoman, declined to comment on Mr. Issa’s letter Monday, saying only that the agency is reviewing it.

The assault complaint happened last year, but concerns about the EPA’s homeland security office grew after Ms. McCarthy issued a memo personally intervening in the inspector general’s investigation that had brought Ms. Drake into the office in the first place.

Ms. McCarthy called for the inspector general to “temporarily halt” its investigation. While EPA officials have said the motive was to tamp down increasing tension between the inspector general and homeland security offices, critics have said it undermines the inspector general’s independent law enforcement authority.

Despite a subsequent memo by Ms. McCarthy in June, Mr. Issa said the problems remain unresolved.

“Unfortunately, instead of moving swiftly to remove this barrier and allow the OIG to proceed with its work, you issued a memo that mistakenly attempts to put that OIG and Homeland Security office on an equal investigative footing,” Mr. Issa wrote.

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