Drug and child sex offenders received paid administrative leave from the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new audit.
The agency’s inspector general found the EPA rehired a child sex offender after they were put on leave for violating probation, in one example of misuse of administrative leave that cost taxpayers over $1 million.
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"Our analysis shows that the EPA’s use of administrative leave appears disproportionate when compared to U.S. Office of Personnel Management guidance related to unacceptable performance and misconduct," the inspector general said in the audit, released Monday. "According to Office of Personnel Management guidance, administrative leave should generally be limited to situations involving brief absences and not be used for an extended period of time. The cases reviewed involved administrative leave of 4 months or more for all but one of the employees included in the audit."
"We do not consider 4 months or more to be a brief absence," they said.
The audit examined eight employees who received extended amounts of paid leave since 2010, who were first identified by a Government Accountability Office investigation last year.
One employee, who confessed to "knowingly and intentionally engaging in sexual contact with a child younger than 17 years" in the 1990s, received paid administrative leave after they were arrested for a probation violation in August 2013.
The employee was put on 300 hours of administrative leave before being removed from the agency five months later. However, the employee was rehired from September 2014 to January 2015, with "no documentation" in their "disciplinary action file."
Another employee was placed on paid administrative leave for seven months after being arrested for marijuana possession. The EPA proposed an indefinite suspension without pay but ultimately signed a separation agreement with the worker that kept the employee on paid administrative leave for an additional five months, totaling 1,281 hours.
The employee resigned once the paid leave ended.
A different employee was placed on administrative leave for 7.5 months before being fired for sending a "hostile email" and making inappropriate statements that "caused anxiety and disruption in the workplace."
The employee’s union contested the firing, which began four years of arbitration that ultimately resulted in the employee being removed a second time, but not before receiving 1,496 hours of back pay.
"The two removal actions were for the same charges—making statements that cause anxiety and disruption in the workplace, making inappropriate statements, having work performance issues, failure to follow supervisor instructions on submittal of timesheets and leave requests, and being AWOL," the inspector general said.
In another case, it took two years for an employee to receive a two-week suspension for "lack of candor." The employee was placed on administrative leave in January 2012, and did not return to work until January 2014, racking up 3,561 hours of administrative leave.
In all, the eight employees recorded 20,926 hours of administrative leave, costing the government an estimated $1,096,868.
The EPA said it is "in the process of updating its leave administration policy."