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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy was instrumental in catching an agency employee who defrauded the government of roughly $900,000, E&E News reports.
John Beale, a longtime official at the EPA, reportedly failed to show up for work for several long stretches, and falsely claimed he was either doing research or engaged in top-secret work for the CIA. As a result, he continued drawing pay and benefits during his absences. Beale had worked at the EPA since the 1980s, and eventually ascended all the way to senior policy advisor in the Office of Air and Radiation. The fraud reportedly began in 2000, and extended across both Democratic and Republican administrations. Beale even continued collecting a paycheck after supposedly retiring in 2011.
According to a source that spoke with E&E News, McCarthy uncovered Beale’s fraud earlier this year while she was still head of the Air and Radiation office. After spotting discrepancies on time sheets and internal reports, McCarthy brought the matter to authorities and eventually pushed Beale to resign this past Spring.
Beale has already paid the EPA back the $886,186 he stole. Under his plea agreement, he’s also agreed to forfeit an additional $507,000, to pay fines of as much as $60,000, and will face up to 37 months in prison. The maximum sentence for theft of government property is 10 years, and a hearing in the case will be held October 9.
Republicans, long critical of the EPA and its mission, did not hesitate to latch onto the issue. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on October 1, luridly titled “Secret Agent Man? Oversight of the EPA’s Investigation of John Beale.” And Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works panel, called the swindle — which amounts to roughly 0.01 percent of the EPA’s 2013 budget — a “massive fraud case.”
“There appears to be corruption to the umpteenth degree,” Vitter’s statement continued. “I think it’s appalling that Administrator McCarthy and former acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe could claim that sequester is depriving the agency of important resources when in fact their own employees are stealing from the government.”
Several of the EPA’s own internal audits have faulted the agency for lackluster management of its workforce and workload going back at least as far as 2005, and for not promptly moving on recommended corrections. But the reports also note that the poor management means projects are as likely to be under-staffed and under-funded as they are to suffer the waste that made Beale’s fraud possible. Portions of the agency have too little as often as it has too much. The reports also note that sequestration and budget cuts have been a burden for agency staff, particularly when certain offices were left understaffed when the flood of new projects came in with the 2009 stimulus bill.
EPA has actually been on the budgetary chopping block long before either sequestration or the current House GOP majority arrived. Adjusted for inflation, the agency’s budgets actually dropped roughly 20 percent since 2005, from a high of about $10 billion to under $8 billion in 2010 dollars. After a brief spike due to the stimulus, EPA’s 2013 budget will be $8.34 billion in nominal dollars — $7.78 billion adjusted for 2010. In real terms, EPA’s budget is now at one of its lowest points in 30 years.