A senior Veterans Affairs official misused her position by encouraging subordinates to pay for psychic readings, federal watchdogs said on Thursday.
Lucy Filipov, the assistant director of the VA’s Philadelphia regional office, pressured employees to attend a private gathering, where a colleague’s wife charged them for the readings, the department’s inspector general said in a report.
Gary Hodge, the psychic’s husband and a pension manager in the regional office, failed to report income from his wife’s psychic business on financial disclosure forms, in apparent violation of ethics rules, the report found.
The report focused on a June 6 social gathering at Filipov’s home. She used her official VA email account to organize the event and recruit employees to attend and pay for Hodge’s wife’s services.
"The employees told us of their reticence [sic] with their paid psychic participation, and said that they generally wanted to participate, but exhibited some reservation," the IG reported.
Despite their reluctance, employees who attended the event told the IG that they paid between $15 and $35 for Hodge’s wife’s services.
VA’s Philadelphia office, one of its largest regional centers, has been plagued by scandal over the last year in the wake of reports of rampant mismanagement and attempts to cover up abuses exposed by internal whistleblowers.
Thursday’s report suggests that Filipov’s inappropriate promotion of a colleague’s wife’s psychic business interests could exacerbate employee mistrust of VA management.
The IG expressed some confusion over whether she is a psychic or a medium.
"In general, a psychic is someone with the ability to see future events or discern someone’s fate, whereas a medium communicates with deceased spirits," the report explains.
At varying times, Hodge’s wife described herself as a psychic and a medium. "Therefore, in the absence of a clear definition and based on records and testimony, we refer to Mr. Hodge’s spouse as both a psychic and a medium within this report."
The IG concluded that Filipov violated federal ethics rules, which forbid employees from using their official positions to promote the financial interests of family, friends, or colleagues.
"When Ms. Filipov realized the spouse required a minimum of six attendees to pay for readings, she immediately began recruiting her subordinates and personal friends," the IG found.
"When one friend expressed skepticism about psychics and mediums, Ms. Filipov compared the spouse to a reality television personality to pique her interest and get her to attend."
After the IG approached Hodge about his apparent failure to disclose his wife’s psychic income, he said that he would include the income on his 2015 financial disclosure filings, and amend prior years to reflect that income.
The report nonetheless faulted him for violating ethics guidelines and notified the Internal Revenue Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue of his failure to report that income on tax filings.
The IG referred Hodge and Filipov to the VA’s Office of General Counsel and Office of Human Resources for appropriate disciplinary action.