EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency did enough to discipline the alleged predator.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency did enough to discipline the alleged predator. Susan Walsh/AP

Did the EPA Cover Up a 'Predator Who Was Fed a Steady Diet of Interns?’

Lawmakers call again for faster firing of misbehaving feds.

Three whistleblowers told a House committee on Wednesday of the Environmental Protection Agency’s inability to properly discipline an employee charged with sexual harassment and the retribution they faced for speaking out against that employee, while lawmakers took the occasion to once again call for federal agencies to fire more workers.

EPA responded to a 24-year-old intern’s complaint that a 62-year-old employee was inappropriately touching and kissing her by moving the intern four cubicles away from the older employee, the whistleblowers said. While they were looking into the intern’s accusations, more women came forward to unveil inappropriate behavior by the same employee. Carolyn Bohlen, who works in EPA’s superfund division, said management knew about the employee’s advances “for years.”

The employee was eventually flagged for dismissal before being allowed to retire, but lawmakers said that action was not harsh or prompt enough.

“One of the most toxic environments is at the EPA,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “How ironic. The EPA is supposed to protect the environment.” Citing reports from EPA employees, Chaffetz called the harassing employee a “predator who was fed a steady diet of interns.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy also testified at the hearing, defending the agency’s discipline of the employee in question and saying any perceived retaliation against the whistleblowers was actually based on the employees’ poor performance. McCarthy also defended the “overwhelming majority” of EPA employees as “dedicated, hardworking, professional public servants.”

She acknowledged, however, the overall disciplinary process can improve and said she is working with the EPA inspector general to enable the agency to “more expeditiously take administrative action with regard to certain employee misconduct.”

“While I firmly believe these employees are isolated examples,” McCarthy said of the string of scandals involving EPA workers in recent years, “I believe we can always do better.”

Karen Kellen, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, which represents 8,500 EPA employees, said a good place to start in making it easier to speak out against employee malfeasance is to disrupt the philosophy that “the manager is always right.” She suggested EPA develop a “feedback loop” that encourages rank-and-file employees to deliver information to senior leadership.

McCarthy repeatedly told lawmakers she was developing, in consultation with EPA’s unions, EPA’s first-ever procedures for dealing with allegations of harassment.

“The order will provide for uniformity and transparency about expectations related to processing complaints of harassment, procedures for reporting and responding to complaints and guidance for engaging in related fact-finding and decision making,” McCarthy said. “We hope to conclude this process in the very near future.”

The hearing eventually turned into a larger discussion on the process for firing federal employees, as well as the role of the EPA in general. Several Republicans criticized McCarthy for regulations affecting parochial interests in their districts, while Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said the entire hearing was designed to carry out a “clear agenda against the EPA.”

Chaffetz continued his call for the removal of malfeasant and poorly performing feds, while noting most employees are good at their jobs.

“You get that many people together, there’s going to be some bad apples,” Chaffetz said. “We want to work with the unions, with the employees, with the administration and with Congress; let’s weed out those bad apples. Let’s hold them accountable.”

The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., joined McCarthy in defending the need for due process in the disciplinary process. The whistleblowers at the hearing said they would no longer hold their jobs if not for the civil service protections.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.