A plane takes off from the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif.

A plane takes off from the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif. Philip Pilosian/AP

Former EPA Official Charged Uncle Sam $69K for Weekend Trips Home

Agency inspector general called travel between Northern and Southern California “excessive.”

Update: The EPA on Oct. 1 sent a revised statement on the IG report concerning Mr. Nastri’s travel data to say that the “agency has not drawn any independent conclusions as to whether there were any improperly reimbursed amounts at this time.” Previously, EPA told Government Executive that “EPA concurs with the conclusions reached in the OIG report and is working with Mr. Nastri on a voluntary repayment schedule to recover $3,823. Additionally, EPA is examining Mr. Nastri’s travel records for previous years to determine if there are other ineligible travel expenses, in accordance with the federal Debt Collection Act, which allows agencies to seek repayment where fraud is not alleged.” The story has been updated to include the agency’s revised statement.

A former top Environmental Protection Agency official based in San Francisco charged the government $69,000 for weekend travel home to Southern California over a three-year period, according to a new inspector general report.

The watchdog analyzed the travel data of Wayne Nastri, who was EPA’s Region 9 administrator from October 2001 to January 2009, and concluded some of Nastri’s travel between 2006 and 2009 was “excessive.” The report also found that Nastri bilked the government for nearly $4,000 in ineligible travel expenses, including extra meals, lodging costs on personal days, and unauthorized mileage reimbursement for his private vehicle.

EPA’s Region 9, headquartered in San Francisco, covers the Pacific Southwest. Nastri, who was not named in the report, maintained a home in Aliso Viejo, in the Orange County/Los Angeles County area, about 11 miles from the John Wayne Airport and 55 miles from the EPA’s Los Angeles field office. The agency opened the L.A. field office when Nastri was head of Region 9. According to the IG, Nastri flew home nearly every weekend to Southern California during the three-year time frame.

Nastri made 88 trips on the government dime (totaling about $132,000) from October 2006 through January 2009; for 51 of those trips, he traveled to the OC/LA area at a cost of $69,000.

“When in OC/LA, the former Region 9 administrator stayed at his residence, and claimed meals and incidental expenses, as well as mileage for his privately owned vehicle to commute to the Los Angeles field office and/or wherever necessary,” the report stated.

The IG compared Nastri’s travel to OC/LA, which was approved by agency officials at the time, to similar trips his successors took on the government dime. “Our analysis disclosed that the former Region 9 administrator’s replacements made only seven trips to OC/LA between 2009 and 2011, calling into question whether the travel of the former Region 9 administrator was essential to performance of the agency mission,” the report concluded. Those seven trips costs roughly $5,700, according to the findings.

EPA told the IG that it would try to recoup any ineligible expenses from Nastri by April 2016.

“As a result of their review, the OIG recommended that the agency ‘determine the amount of any ineligible travel expenses to the Los Angeles area, share details, and take appropriate action to obtain repayment from the former Region 9 administrator,’ the EPA said in a revised statement sent to Government Executive on Oct. 1. “In response to that recommendation, the agency agreed it would take reasonable and appropriate action to review the information available and, should the agency conclude that amounts were reimbursed improperly, the agency would seek to recover those amounts through its established debt collection process. The agency has not drawn any independent conclusions as to whether there were any improperly reimbursed amounts at this time."

Through a spokesman, Nastri told the Washington Examiner in a Sept. 23 new report that IG investigators did not contact him before the report’s publication and that he had “not been provided any of the documents on which the allegations are allegedly based.” The IG report in its methodology section said investigators interviewed Nastri and other Region 9 staff for the audit.

The watchdog also did a random sampling of the agency’s travel reporting system and policies, finding a lack of documentation for lodging above the per diem rate, and other problems. “We noted a lack of trip reports for international travel, vouchers not being submitted within the required timeframe, and travel card refresher training requirements not being in compliance” with federal policy on government charge cards, the report stated.

The IG also criticized the agency for missing information related to employees’ use of premium-class travel – travel outside of coach class. “Our examination of the information reported by the EPA disclosed that 26 premium-class travel transactions, with a total cost of $79,408, were not reported to [the General Services Administration] in fiscal years 2011 and 2012,” the report said.

EPA pointed out in its response that agency policy, not the Federal Travel Regulation, “incorporated these [international] reports as a best management practice to ensure information sharing, as well as a travel internal control.” EPA policy also directs employees to submit travel documentation within five working days after return travel, but the FTR allows frequent travelers to submit all vouchers once a month, the agency said.

As for premium-class travel data, “any discrepancy in the information would be trips that GSA does not deem reportable,” the agency said in its response to the IG. “There are several reasons that trip [sic] would not be reported to GSA on the premium class travel report. For instance, GSA does not allow the agency to report a trip where the premium class ticket resulted in a fare that was lower than the coach fare.”

Still, EPA agreed in general to tighten controls, update guidance, and ensure employees receive current training on travel policy and documentation.

“EPA has instituted and is implementing controls to prevent similar travel-related discrepancies in the future,” the agency said in a statement.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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.