The Hill: Dan Epstein: Who should be holding whom accountable?

Who should be holding whom accountable?

 By Dan Epstein  July 12, 2013

Inspectors General, who hold federal agencies accountable by conducting audits and, when needed, investigating alleged misconduct, are in place to provide oversight over how taxpayer funded federal agencies are operating. But what happens if the inspectors are allegedly conducting the misconduct?

A case in point is the recent investigation involving Department of Homeland Security (DHS) DeputyInspector General Charles Edwards and allegations of his misconduct and abuse. Senators McCaskill and Johnson share similar concerns to those of Cause of Action that have been brought forward by insiders at DHS. These concerns range from wasteful spending to the destruction of federal records, which is a criminal offense. We have already begun releasing documents we have obtained and are committed to exposing the truth about Edwards and his office.

But everyday Americans aren’t always afforded the time and resources to uncover the facts about government employees such as Edwards. That’s why, as a government watchdog group, Cause of Action is committed to exposing the overreach and cronyism fueling the federal government’s waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. As a result of our own investigation and information from insiders familiar with the DHS OIG office, Cause of Action sent a letter to President Obama on July 1 requesting that the President remove Edwards from his position. Edwards has failed to honestly and appropriately conduct investigations, manage subordinates, and has potentially misused public resources.

Cause of Action exposes these types of government accountability issues because Americans have the right to know how their government spends their hard earned money. We are rooted in the belief that regardless of party affiliation, we all deserve an efficient, effective government that protects our best interests rather than an ulterior political or personal agenda. Cause of Action concentrates on the decisions and rule making that may go unchecked at federal agencies.

Our staff of investigators, lawyers, and communications professionals frequently uses Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to shed light on otherwise opaque facets of the federal government. We also seek to utilize valid tips from government employees who have noticed the misuse of taxpayer resources.

Our recent accountability work included a report on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) grant program revealing seven grant recipients who allegedly used federal funds to illegally lobby for tobacco taxes, clean air ordinances, and bans on sugar-sweetened drinks.

Our work doesn’t stop at exposing misuses of power; we fight to hold officials accountable through litigation and public education. Our litigation and investigations are tactical, covering a spectrum of issues and targets that are part of our greater mission to educate the public on how the government exercises its unchecked power.

By employing the checks and balances our government provides, whether through the courts or through Congressional investigations, our aim is to bring real public change through our investigations and litigation. We remain committed to shedding light on the discretionary power of unelected officials who spend our dollars and regulate our sources of livelihood.

Epstein is executive director of Cause of Action, a non-profit, nonpartisan government accountability organization.

 

Related Documents: Investigation of DHS Deputy IG Charles Edwards

We sent a FOIA Request to DHS OIG on March 27, 2013 asking for documents related to 3 prior FOIA requests, travel records and any complaints against Deputy IG Charles Edwards, and documents disclosed to Andrew Becker, a journalist at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

After not receiving the documents we requested, we filed a lawsuit for the records on June 11, 2013.

Based on information from our insiders, we sent a letter asking President Obama to remove Deputy IG Edwards on July 1, 2013 for:

  1. Failing to appropriately conduct investigations (including whitewashing a report on the solicitation of prostitutes by the Secret Service in Colombia)
  2. Improper travel costs. Edwards would conduct “site checks” at a nearby DHS OIG office in Miramar, Florida but his actual intent was to attend classes for his doctorate degree at Nova Southeastern University. Edwards also took two separate three-day trips to a remote DHS office in Puerto Rico and stayed in resort hotels.
  3. Nepotism for hiring his wife and promoting those who approved her five month telework request.
  4. Destruction of federal records
  5. Disregard of the Freedom of Information Act and the removal of records
  6. Intimidating and retaliating against employees

DHS OIG finally sent us a partial response on July 2, 2013 and the documents confirm what our whistleblowers were saying about Deputy IG Edwards.

  1. The travel records show that Edwards stayed in a hotel closer to his school than to the DHS OIG Office and he even received a special rate for “Nova SE University.”
  2. They also confirm that Edwards took two separate three-day trips to a remote DHS office in Puerto Rico and stayed in resort hotels.
  3. Telephone records show that Edwards’ wife, Madhuri Edwards, primarily used her government issued international phone to call Charles Edwards while on telework in India.

 

Cause of Action’s Executive Director Dan Epstein discussed Deputy IG Charles Edwards on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper.

 

FOIA Requests

Production: Internal Complaints (October 31, 2013)

Interim DHS OIG FOIA Production (July 2, 2013 )

DHS OIG FOIA Complaint (June 11, 2013)

FOIA Request (March 27, 2013)

Letters

Cause of Action letter to President Obama: Remove DHS Deputy IG Charles Edwards (July 1, 2013)

Dan Epstein Discusses Acting DHS Deputy IG Edwards on The Lead

Dan Epstein discusses the corruption within the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General with Jake Tapper on CNN’s The Lead.

Who Watches The Watchmen?

 

Cause of Action letter to President Obama: Remove DHS Deputy IG Charles Edwards

Department of Homeland Security