Chairs Maloney and Thompson Request Information from DHS IG on Efforts to Conceal Department Employee Misconduct
Washington, D.C. (May 10, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, requesting documents and information related to reported efforts by the Inspector General’s office to delay or conceal findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment by DHS employees. The letter follows a bipartisan staff briefing, at which officials at DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) refused to commit to a timeline for releasing a report on sexual misconduct and harassment of DHS employees, which the office began four years ago. The Chairs’ letter raises concerns about the Inspector General’s ability to ensure accountability and transparency of government programs and operations as required under the Inspector General Act of 1978.
“We are investigating disturbing reports that under your leadership, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) sought to censor findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment by DHS employees. According to public reporting, your office removed key findings from draft investigation reports that described misconduct by DHS employees involving domestic violence, and your office delayed releasing a separate report on pervasive sexual harassment within DHS. These reports, along with a recent briefing your office provided to staff from our Committees, raise concerns about your ability to independently and effectively perform your duties as Inspector General,” wrote the Chairs.
On April 5, 2022, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) released documents indicating that the DHS OIG removed alarming evidence that DHS had failed to adequately address and discipline instances of domestic violence by its employees in the report titled, “DHS Components Have Not Fully Complied with the Department’s Guidelines for Implementing the Lautenberg Amendment,” before its publication on November 13, 2020.
Additional reporting from the New York Times also revealed that the DHS OIG objected to including findings in another report on sexual misconduct and harassment that discussed DHS agencies’ use of individual cash payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle harassment cases and suggested that this finding be removed from the report. The still-unpublished report found that out of 28,000 DHS employees surveyed, more than 10,000 reported experiencing sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.
Following the POGO and New York Times reporting, the Committees requested and received a bipartisan briefing by DHS OIG officials on April 20, 2022, regarding these alarming reports and raised concerns about the report on sexual misconduct and harassment of DHS employees remaining unpublished.
“Despite the fact that the review began almost four years ago, and was approved by your Office of Counsel, quality assurance staff, and several high-level DHS OIG officials in 2020, the final report remains unpublished. During a staff briefing on April 20, 2022, your staff could not provide a timeline for when this report would be released. DHS OIG staff asserted during this briefing that the facts removed from these reports were already known to DHS, implying that there was no need for them to be included,” wrote the Chairs.
The Committee’s letter requests that the DHS OIG provide all documents by May 24, 2022.
On March 26, 2020, Chairs Maloney and Thompson both sent letters to IG Cuffari on shortcomings in OIG’s review of the deaths of two children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection, as well as issues with Mr. Cuffari’s leadership as Inspector General—including concerns that he has distanced himself from and delayed critical reports.
In the past, Congress has investigated allegations of wrongdoing within the Inspector General’s office, including in a bipartisan fashion. Bipartisan Senate investigations found evidence of misconduct by former Acting and Deputy Inspector General Charles Edwards, including that he: (1) used taxpayer funded travel as a pretext for personal travel; (2) failed to disclose his wife’s hiring and thereby impaired the independence of a DHS OIG audit; and (3) instructed subordinates to work on personal matters during official time.
Click here to read today’s letter.