IG: EPA Still Blocking
Access to Investigations

Agency ‘continues to impede’ access

Gina McCarthy
Gina McCarthy / AP
June 1, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency is still blocking its inspector general from investigating wrongdoing at the agency, according to the government watchdog’s semi-annual report to Congress.

More than a year after coming under scrutiny for stonewalling an investigation into a senior official accused of sexually harassing over a dozen women, the EPA is still not being cooperative with the inspector general.

"In the previous Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported theoretical progress with regard to the longstanding denial of access for the [Office of Inspector General] OIG by the EPA’s Office of Homeland Security (OHS) to information sought by the OIG," the report said. "After considerable delay, OHS provided some documents to the OIG but continued to deny access to others."

The dispute stems from an investigation into a senior official who was accused of harassing 16 women over a decade. The inspector general had found that other senior EPA officials "likely knew about the sexual harassment, but did nothing for six months."

The official retired without punishment the same day he was set to be interviewed by the inspector general.

The EPA had blamed an agreement with the FBI for not being forthcoming regarding the investigation. However, FBI officials said that they did not restrict the EPA from sharing information with the inspector general.

"During the semiannual reporting period ending March 31, 2016, senior officials from the OIG and EPA met with senior Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials about, among other things, any FBI insistence on restricting access by the OIG to any information shared with or held by the EPA," the report said. "In short, the FBI assured the OIG and EPA that the FBI sought no restriction, and agreed that FBI information could be shared with the OIG.

The EPA said the agency will continue to not share information with the inspector general of its investigations into its employees, who have been caught watching porn at work for up to six hours a day, and spreading feces in hallways.

"However, once again, when it came to implementation, OHS has asserted that it will not inform OIG of cases unless OHS determines the matter is within OIG jurisdiction," the inspector general said. "Under the Inspector General Act, the OIG is to have access to all information ‘available to’ the agency. Only the OIG—not some agency component—can determine whether it will pursue or forego further investigation of a matter."

"OHS continues to impede the OIG’s carrying out its statutory responsibilities," it said.

An EPA spokesperson said the agency is currently reviewing the report and "will respond to the OIG, as appropriate."