Top DHS Auditor Had Employees Write His Dissertation, Fired Dissidents, Complaints Allege
A Senate subcommittee is investigating a high-ranking auditor after receiving complaints of nepotism, abuse of power and involvement in cover-ups.
Sens. Clare McCaskill, D-Mo., and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., chairwoman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Financial and Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, sent a letter on Thursday to Charles Edwards, the deputy inspector general at the Homeland Security Department, asking for his cooperation in the investigation. With the DHS IG role currently vacant, Edwards is serving as the head of the auditor’s office.
Edwards allegedly helped his wife, Madhuri Edwards, secure the position of supervisory auditor within his office, a move that “appears to violate laws and regulations governing prohibited personnel practices,” the letter said. The subcommittee also received complaints Edwards took retaliatory action against an employee who attempted to call attention to the misconduct.
The head of the IG’s office also allegedly played a role in in covering up “relevant and damaging information” in the investigation into the Secret Service’s encounters with Colombian prostitutes, the letter said. The senators outlined allegations that Edwards is “susceptible to political pressure,” saying whistleblowers claimed he “intentionally changed and withheld information” in both internal documents and the public report.
Edwards allegedly required his employees to drive him and his wife around on “personal errands,” helped his wife secure improper benefits and falsely claimed to make “site visits” to an IG office in Florida in order to attend classes for his Ph.D -- all on the taxpayers’ dime. Whistleblowers accused Edwards of requiring his staff to do his schoolwork and write his dissertation paper. Edwards allegedly offered bonuses to staffers who assisted him with his Ph.D work.
The senators received complaints that Edwards asked his staff to “complete lesson plans and compile homework assignments” for a class he taught at Capitol College in Laurel, Md., as an adjunct professor.
Employees who refused or questioned Edwards faced penalties, whistleblowers said. Edwards allegedly placed these workers on administrative leave or fired them and assisted adverse actions against personnel with grievances. He also “improperly interfered” with the reinstatement of one former employee’s security clearance, complaints alleged.
The Senate subcommittee has asked Edwards for a variety of documents and communications, including emails and documents related to “official trips” made to Florida, employment at Capitol College, awards and bonuses for his employees, and all complaints he received. Lawmakers also asked him to make certain staff would be available for interviews.
A spokesman in the IG’s office told Government Executive, “DHS OIG plans to comply fully with the Senators’ requests,” but declined to comment further on the specifics of the claims.
The Senators -- who were “alerted by numerous whistleblowers” over the last year of the misconduct -- asked for a response by July 13.
Edwards was named acting inspector general in February 2011 and has remained the head of the office since he resumed his position as deputy IG in January 2013.