Senior Energy Official Convinces Colleagues to Hire His Three Children

A senior official at the Energy Department successfully lobbied colleagues at the agency to hire his three children for summer internships, despite strict rules against nepotism in the federal government, according to an internal audit.

Energy’s inspector general found an employee in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office contacted 12 department employees -- including one high-ranking human capital official -- to encourage the hiring of his three children. In one instance, the official convinced an office to reverse its decision to go without interns and instead take on one of his children.

The employee -- whom the IG report did not name -- contacted the Office of the Chief Information Officer and followed up “a number of times” before the office ultimately “decided to reverse its previously announced decision” to forgo interns for the summer, the report said.

The other two children worked in the same renewable energy office as their father. All three were hired as part of the Student Temporary Employment Program, or STEP.

The federal government has several statutes related to nepotism, including a rule that a “public official may not appoint, employ or advocate for the appointment or employment of a relative in the agency in which the public official is serving.” Additionally, federal employees may not use their public role for a relative’s “private gain” or “financial interest.” The inspector general found the official to be in violation of these rules.

“Nepotism or even its appearance can have a decidedly negative impact on morale within an organization,” the IG wrote. “As is readily apparent, providing inappropriate advantages for relatives of federal employees damages the integrity of the competitive process and erodes public trust in the federal hiring process.”

When speaking to the investigators, the official said he had not done anything wrong and that providing resumes on behalf of relatives for STEP positions was common. The two Energy employees who hired the official’s children said they did not “feel pressured” by the official’s pursuit.

The official also told the auditors he had only spoken with four colleagues about positions for his children, but an examination of his emails showed it was actually 12 employees from seven programs.

Overall, the Energy Department received more than 750 applications for STEP positions for the 2012 summer, according to the report. It hired just 27, meaning one official’s children accounted for more than 10 percent of all STEP hires.

Energy’s general council, as well as the chief human capital officer, is conducting a review of the inspector general’s report and their findings will lead to “appropriate corrective actions,” said David Danielson, the assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.  The department has already sent a memo to all employees explaining the various nepotism statutes and will place an increased emphasis on the subject in annual ethics training.

The cases of nepotism were not limited to just one official. In the course of the investigation, the inspector general’s office found a member of its own team had “communicated with department officials” regarding employment for his child.

“We consider this matter to be serious,” the IG wrote. “Administrative action is in process.” 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.