One Agency Paid an Employee $400K to Sit on the Sidelines

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says the case shows the system for investigating IGs is broken. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says the case shows the system for investigating IGs is broken. Flickr user Gage Skidmore

This story has been updated with a link to the IG Council's report. 

After nearly two years on paid administrative leave, the inspector general for the National Archives and Records Administration will retire this week in the wake of an unreleased report from the governmentwide IG council, which found he had offended colleagues with sexual and racial comments.

As reported by The Washington Post, Paul Brachfeld, who has 35 years in government, made comments to staff that “undermine the integrity reasonably expected of an IG,” according to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency report completed in June.  The council said it was “particularly disturbed by the comments Brachfeld made concerning interracial marriage, comments concerning pregnant women, and comments indicating that [he] was interested in dating NARA employees or contractors,” according to the news account.

Brachfeld, who earned $186,000 a year, was put on paid administrative leave in September 2012 by David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, while an outside law firm was paid to conduct an investigation. Charges that Brachfeld altered audits and leaked information to television producers were not substantiated, the Post said.

The absence of a full-time inspector general and long stretches of paid administrative leave are government problems long blasted by critics.

“This situation proved the process for investigating allegations against an inspector general is broken,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Government Executive. “It shouldn’t take two years to resolve allegations, and an inspector general certainly shouldn’t be sidelined for that long before anything is proven. The agency was without a permanent inspector general for that time, and the inspector general was on paid leave without working. The current system hurts taxpayers. I’m working with the committees of jurisdiction on legislation that would fix the broken process, among other reforms, and beef up the independence and strength of inspectors general.”

Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, said, "It is totally unacceptable for an agency head to remove an inspector general, effectively immobilizing that office for two years and leaving the IG to languish on the sidelines at taxpayer expense. A legislative fix may be required to prevent an agency head from taking this kind of self-serving action against a watchdog without clear justification and significant external review."

An Archives spokeswoman declined to comment on personnel issues.

(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)

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