Homeland Security's IG Under Investigation for Hotel, Education Expenses

Monday, 22 Jul 2013 07:15 PM

By Andrea Billups

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The acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security is facing an investigation for using employees to assist in his Ph.D. studies and even hiring his wife, according to the New York Post and the government accountability watchdog group Cause of Action.

Using records from a federal Freedom of Information Act request initiated by Cause of Action, the Post investigation determined that Charles K. Edwards, whose own job was to investigate fraud within his own agency, took personal trips from Washington to South Florida using taxpayer funds.

He used the time to earn his doctoral degree as well as employ his wife, Madhuri, a clear violation of the department's nepotism rules. He went so far as to get her a government Blackberry that she could use while she was out of the country. Many of her expensive international calls were to her husband, records showed.

The Post, which broke the story, said Edwards took "site visits" as a part of his government job to places that helped to advance his career, going so far as submitting travel receipts that included the name of his school, Nova Southeastern University.

His expenses also included hotel rates though he had no official role in those locales. He also visited Puerto Rico several times where he stayed at a Ritz Carlton and submitted nearly $1,000 from a Homeland Security voucher for a stay at the Miami Marriott.

The investigation of Edwards also determined that the IG gave bonuses to employees who assisted him with his course work and helped him to write his doctoral dissertation. When other employees complained about the abuse, he retaliated.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, and Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, members of the Senate Homeland Security financial and contracting oversight subcommittee, are investigating the case over nine allegations of misconduct and abuse, the Post reported. They sought information from Edwards in their investigation earlier this month.

The inspector general himself denied wrongdoing. He described the allegations as "completely without merit" and "false." The IG declined comment to the Post. Edwards said in a statement issued from India, where he was vacationing, that he was concerned.

"I am very disturbed that false allegations have been made against me, but more importantly, I am very concerned that this matter may negatively impact the important oversight work of the Office of Inspector General," Edwards said, according to a story published in the Huffington Post July 2.

If the 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 Cause of Action's Mary Beth Hutchins.

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