Watchdog: Follow the Money

Top Treasury employees swindled thousands of dollars, in-the-know bosses did nothing

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Watchdog,Treasury,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud,Luke Rosiak,Follow the Money

Officials in two Treasury Department bureaus fraudulently enriched themselves at taxpayer expense, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.

The assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Public Debt who supervised 108 employees in the bureau's West Virginia office “was committing egregious time and attendance fraud," depriving taxpayers of nearly $100,000 in salary for hours she did not work, according to one of several Treasury Department inspector general documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, most of which had previously gone unreported.

The official, despite being paid an average yearly salary of nearly $170,000, "arrives at work approximately two hours late and/or takes two-hour lunch breaks and departs work at approximately 4:00 P.M. and does not take leave," and "consistently conducts personal business involving the Humane Society during work hours," IG investigators found after verifying a tip from an employee who said the top official "abuses her power by being absent whenever desired."

Her supervisor, the deputy commissioner, knew about the absences but did nothing, the investigators said.

“In approximately 2007,” investigators wrote, the assistant commissioner became vice president of a Humane Society chapter, and another BPD employee became president, according to the report.

The website of the Humane Society of Parkersburg, W.Va., lists Debbie Hines as vice president and Carrie J. Roe as president.

Federal pay records show that Hines was paid $168,453 in 2012 as assistant commissioner for public debt accounting, and Roe received approximately $144,000 as director of business technology for the BPD.

It is not clear whether either woman still works for the federal government. A current “executive management” listing on the BPD website does not include Hines.

Hines was “absent without leave” approximately 1,200 hours over four years, according to timesheet records based on scans of her employee identification badge's entry and exit from her workplace. An official work year in the federal civil service is 2,087 hours.

Hines "owes BPD a total of 1,218.77 hours from 2009 to 2012, or approximately $97,832.96 in salary. [Her] supervisor, [the] deputy commissioner, BPD, was aware of [her] varied hours, and an anonymous complaint sent to BPD management regarding [her] time and attendance, but stated that she was not overly concerned about [her] hours because [she] is a stellar employee,” investigators wrote.

Her supervisor worked in an office 300 miles away in Washington, D.C., and said Hines was a "good leader" who handles "politically sensitive and time sensitive work," but that she occasionally had trouble reaching her.

When interviewed for the Hines investigation, Roe, who holds the federal employee classification of GS-15, admitted to missing 346 hours, which, at a salary of $69 per hour, not including benefits, amounted to $23,874.

She also admitted that she had violated federal statutes concerning the "basic obligation of public service" for civil servants.

It was unclear whether either Hines or Roe reimbursed the BPD. A Treasury spokesperson declined to provide that information to the Examiner.

Hines' employment status is unknown, but she is not listed among the department's current top management on its website. A voicemail at BPD was identified as belonging to Roe, but did not state her job title. She could not be reached for comment.

Another inspector general investigation found that at the Office of Thrift Supervision, a GS-15 employee -- one of the highest ranks a federal career civil servant can obtain -- agreed to be transferred from an office near Los Angeles to an office near San Francisco and took $10,000 in relocation expense reimbursement, but then never moved.

She also submitted massive travel bills for routine travel to her new office, including hotel stays, to the OTS, which approved them.

She “submitted travel vouchers costing the OTS ... $87,047 in travel that would not have incurred if she had relocated," investigators wrote.

As with the Hines case, supervisors were aware of the wrongdoing, but did nothing to correct it.

"OTS employees in the region revealed they all were aware that [she] still resided in southern CA, but believed it was authorized by OTS headquarters. The OTS headquarters personnel stated that they were unaware that [she] had never relocated," the report said.

The travel went on for four years. When questioned about her location, she retired. Treasury did not respond to an Examiner question about whether she paid back the nearly $100,000 at issue. The employee's name was redacted from the document and could not be identified.

Also at OTS, a human resources specialist with a concentration in retirement planning repeatedly solicited prostitutes on Craigslist using his work computer, including for the purpose of sending payments, according to another IG document.

The high-ranking employee, whose name was also redacted from the document and could not be identified, had worked for the government for 36 years, and retired after the conduct was exposed.

Federal authorities declined to bring criminal charges or civil suits against any of the civil servants named in the unpublished IG reports.

The OTS was a bank regulator that was merged into other Treasury entities under the Dodd-Frank reforms of 2011.

The BPD's mission is “to borrow the money needed to operate the federal government, account for the resulting debt, and provide reimbursable support services to federal agencies.”

"Treasury has a strong ethics policy that we expect all employees to follow, and the overwhelming majority of them do. As with any large organization, occasionally issues of misconduct arise. When that happens, we act promptly and decisively to address them," a spokesman said in an email.

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Updated at 10:53 a.m. to add statement from Treasury.

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