Panel tees off on Justice grant official's golf outings

Golf has become a problem for Robert Flores, the embattled head of a Justice Department grant-making office.

Flores accepted a free round of golf in Florida from the World Golf Foundation, then ignored better qualified applicants and gave the group's First Tee charity a $500,000 grant, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Democrats charged Thursday.

Flores repaid the foundation $159 for the February 2006 round Wednesday, a day before his scheduled appearance before the committee, a receipt released by the committee shows.

According to Justice Department officials, Flores, administrator of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, is also under investigation by the department's inspector general.

That probe addresses taxpayer-funded trips where Flores allegedly spent much of his time golfing. It also focuses on Flores' hiring, through a $450 per-day contract, of a Honduran citizen with whom he attended church, ABCNews reported Thursday. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating allegations by career staffers that Flores played favorites in making grant awards in 2007, when the office had unusual leeway due to a moratorium that year on congressional earmarks, which usually eat up its discretionary budget.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said Flores ignored staff assessments of grant applications to favor politically well-connected groups and others backing causes he favored. Flores did not provide financial support to groups whose applications won the top five rankings from his staff, but gave $1.2 million to an evangelical group led by Lisa Cummins, a former official in the White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives, and $1.1 million to the Best Friends Foundation, an abstinence-promotion group whose founder, Elayne Bennett, is married to prominent conservative Bill Bennett. Flores has discretion to award grants regardless of staff rankings. But Democrats noted other Justice Department officials said his decisions were based on criteria not cited in grant solicitations.

A memo released by Democrats said Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield, who is Flores' boss, told committee staff, "I am for candor and clarity, especially when dealing with people's money." She added: "And that did not happen. And I am upset that it did not happen." In an e-mail released by the committee, a career OJJDP official said Flores' chief of staff, Michelle DeKonty, who joined him in meetings with First Tee officials in 2007 said before grant applications were done that First Tee would get a $3 million grant. DeKonty asserted her Fifth Amendment rights in declining to be interviewed by the committee.

Pointing broadly to "allegations ... made against me," Flores said "each of those allegations is false." He noted specific grant applications were ranked on their responsiveness to the solicitation, not program merit. He said agency employees each ranked about eight of 104 applications without considering others or separate federal funding that made some applications redundant.

That position was backed by several committee Republicans, including Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Tom Davis R-Va. "In effect this hearing is little more than an attempt ... to intimidate executive branch decision makers into trimming their discretion to meet congressional expectations," Davis said. The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight also Thursday released a report concluding that a separate Justice Department office heading the Byrne Discretionary Grant Program, which supports juvenile outreach, made 13 grants in 2007 without weighing them through the peer review process.

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

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • 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

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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