Little-known agency has done nothing in two years to curb its executive director’s alleged abuse.
A registered lobbyist and an employee at an obscure independent federal agency collected a six-figure government salary while working just four hours per week on official business, according a congressional inquiry sent to the agency.
The Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad knew about the lax work schedule of its executive director since at least 2013, when the General Services Administration’s inspector general reported on his practices, according to a letter from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. Jeffrey Farrow, the employee, earned $143,000 per year for his minimal work, nearly one-quarter of the commission’s entire annual budget.
Farrow has served as the executive director of the commission -- which was established in 1985 to preserve and protect monuments and buildings “associated with the foreign heritage of U.S. citizens abroad” -- since 2001. He is a registered lobbyist, working for Puerto Rico and the island nation of Palau, earning $820,000 last year. He is on pace to earn $1.3 million this year from his side gig.
The GSA IG report found the commission agreed to pay Farrow $104,000 per year to work eight hours per week. Instead, he took the higher salary and worked less than the scheduled amount. He conducted his lobbying business attempting to attract Congressional appropriations to Puerto Rico and Palau from his federal office and using federal resources, and reportedly spent 90 percent of his time on that work. Extrapolated out, Farrow was earning the equivalent of a $1.5 million full-time salary.
Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Farrow’s decisions -- including the hiring of a disgraced former congressman for his lobbying business and allowing him to also work from the federal space -- “cast serious doubts” on whether Farrow “shares any personal involvement in the important mission of the commission.”
“Instead,” Johnson continued, “his taxpayer-funded job at the commission seems to have been merely one more source of income for him.”
When reached for comment, Farrow referred Government Executive to his attorney. That attorney did not respond to an inquiry.
For its part, the agency simply noted it “routinely works with members of the House and Senate interested in the mission and functioning of the commission.” It did not respond to specific questions on Farrow or Johnson’s letter.
The senator also noted GSA’s IG found broader personnel issues at the commission, such as allowing contracted employees to take vacation and bill the agency for those hours. Contracted employees at the commission also worked without an agreement for over a decade, with no evidence of competitive bidding.
Since the 2013 report, the commission has done nothing to change its ways or discipline Farrow, who still serves as executive director, Johnson said.
The commission told Johnson’s committee staff it would only share the IG’s report -- which has not previously been made public -- if the staffers promised not to reveal its contents. It also failed to provide any documentation of its recent accomplishments. In his letter, Johnson asked for many documents including detailed expenditures, information on official trips, compensation packages for contractors, emails sent from the agency’s official accounts, minutes from meetings and the typical work week for the commission’s few employees.