Inspector general of Homeland Security eyed in fund mismanagement and nepotism
By GEOFF EARLE Bureau Chief
Last Updated: 5:48 AM, July 22, 2013
WASHINGTON — The acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security flouted nepotism rules by employing his wife, and took multiple jaunts, at taxpayers’ expense, to Florida, according to documents obtained by The Post.
The documents show at least four trips
that Charles Edwards — the acting inspector general assigned to root out fraud in the agency’s $40 billion budget — took from DC to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where he was earning a computer and information-sciences degree at Nova Southeastern University, in 2011 and 2012.
Travel receipts submitted by Edwards list the university’s name next to the rate charged by the hotel, apparently corroborating claims by whistle-blowers who told two lawmakers and a watchdog group that the acting IG was using so-called government “site visits” for his own personal advancement — since, they allege, there was no reason for him to make an official visit to Fort Lauderdale.
“If those allegations turn out to be true, then this deputy inspector general is violating his role as a public servant who is being paid on the taxpayer dime,” said Mary Beth Hutchins, of the group Cause of Action, which shared documents it had obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request with The Post.
Receipts for the Fort Lauderdale Marriott list “Nova SE University” on the room-charge receipt. Gas receipts reveal that he filled up near the school, as well.
Edwards (pictured) also gave bonuses to employees who helped him complete school assignments and write his Ph.D. dissertation, and he retaliated when employees complained about his conduct, according to Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who are investigating “misconduct and abuse” in the case.
Other travel documents show several $1,500 trips to Puerto Rico, where Edwards stayed at the Ritz and at a Marriott resort, and a $954 voucher to Homeland Security for his stay at the Miami Marriott.
The documents also could point to nepotism, Cause of Action officials said. Edwards employed his wife, Madhuri, as an auditor in his office — in apparent violation of agency anti-nepotism laws — according to Johnson and McCaskill.
Madhuri was able to get permission to tele-work from India for at least five months, internal documents reveal.
One document from a supervisor points to discomfort at Edwards’ interference: “Madhuri e-mailed me and said that she hoped that I could accommodate her request to tele-work on Thursdays,” her boss wrote. “I asked her if she would be taking leave . . . Then Charles called!”
Another e-mail reveals a “Charles Edwards walk-in request” that his wife get a “loaner” BlackBerry in 2010 for her India trip.
Phone logs and bills totaling hundreds of dollars each month in charges show many of her calls were to her husband — on taxpayers’ dime.
Edwards denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations “false” and “completely without merit.”
The IG’s office declined to comment.