Policy: Technology

Veterans Affairs officials resign after promoting employee who used tax dollars for 'female companions,' sexted on VA computers

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Watchdog,Veterans Affairs,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud,Follow the Money,Veterans,Technology,Logan Porter

Two senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs resigned in recent months after a high-level employee who was improperly hired admitted to having "sexted" on government-issued mobile devices and spent tax dollars to wine and dine "female companions" at bars, according to a newly released inspector general's report.

Jonah Czerwinski, former director of the VA Center for Innovation, failed to detail and supervise the senior-level position he had created for the benefit of the single unnamed employee, the inspector general found. He resigned last September to work for a private consulting firm.

Meanwhile, James Alan Bozeman, former program director for the Veterans Benefits Administration, stepped down in January. Bozeman had requested the unnamed employee, then working for the VA in Nashville, Tenn., be part of a VA technology initiative and introduced the employee to Czerwinski in May 2011, the Office of Inspector General said.

The “program analyst” position the man was given was never posted publicly, and a private link to the job application website was sent only to him.

That employee had previously worked on disability claims related to exposure to Agent Orange as a veteran services representative in Nashville prior to his promotion to the new position in July 2013.

In the months before the promotion, the employee was under investigation by the Office of Inspector General for misusing approximately $31,000 in travel funds and a contractor charge card.

The employee used his federal travel card for unauthorized travel expenses to Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York City; valet charges on trips for which he didn't rent a car; personal travel expenses; and meals at bars where he entertained "female companions," according to the report.

In early 2013, the employee told Czerwinski he wanted to move to Washington, D.C. Czerwinski in turn applied pressure on the VA Office of Strategic Planning to have the employee promoted to a position in the nation's capital, the inspector general said.

After being made aware of the ongoing investigation of the employee in January 2013, Czerwinski continued with calls, emails and complaints asking about their “slowness” in promoting the man.

During this time, the employee continued to violate VA policy by taking unauthorized biweekly trips to the District and telecommuting to work from his hotel room until he eventually rented an apartment in the area.

The unnamed employee misused $31,000 in government travel funds. "For most of his travel, he did not get supervisory approval prior to traveling," the inspector general said.

This unsupervised work environment also gave “unlimited freedom” to the employee, leading to 25 unreported absences that were never docked from his paycheck.

In September 2011, taxpayers footed the $383 bill to have the man's departure schedule changed from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport — directly across the Potomac from D.C. — to Virginia's Washington Dulles International Airport, a roughly 30-minute drive from the District, so the man could attend a horse show closer to Dulles, the inspector general said.

The employee claimed that he worked an “ad hoc” schedule because he needed the free time to conduct personal business, according to the report.

During such "personal time," the employee exchanged nude and explicit Images with other people, according to the report.

"He said that he downloaded the Skype software onto his VA-issued laptop without approval and that he used this software for sexting close personal friends. [The employee] told us that he was 'out of control' when he downloaded the unauthorized software and misused his VA-issued laptop to engage in this behavior," the report said.

The report notes that VA bans the use of government-issued mobile devices for the distribution and exchange of sexually explicit materials.

The VA declined to comment on whether the employee still works at VA or whether any administrative action is planned.

Neither Czerwinski nor Bozeman could be reached for comment.

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