Former DHS Official Slammed For Travel Spending, ‘Appearance Of Nepotism’

Thomas Phippen | Reporter

A former Department of Homeland Security official routinely overpaid for nicer cars and better hotel rooms with taxpayer money and gave the appearance of nepotism when her agency hired her husband, government inspectors said in a Tuesday report.

The Inspector General (IG) found Connie Patrick, who was director of Federal Law Enforcement Training (FLETC) from 2002 until she retired in 2017, spent thousands of dollars more on travel than was allowed by government regulations, according to a May 22 report.

The report also criticized the “appearance of nepotism” in the hiring of Patrick’s husband, John Patrick, as an instructor for DHS.

Patrick resigned after the IG opened an investigation into her wrongdoing — just before a string of allegations were made, accusing officials in President Donald Trump’s administration of exorbitant travel spending.

Patrick’s travel between 2012 and 2017 cost nearly $288,000, according to June 2017 press reports. Other former DHS officials working in the  Glynco, Ga., faclilty were caught up in the travel spending scandal. But Patrick’s domestic and international travel routinely ran higher than government regulations.

Of Patrick’s 38 domestic trips between January 15, 2014, and June 23, 2016, the IG examined, 20 cost 300 percent more than standard government rates for flights and car rentals. The other 18 trips ran about 150 percent higher than allowed for official government travel. (RELATED: There’s A Multi-Million Dollar, ‘Homeland Security’ Fund For Protecting ‘Party Buses’ From Nonexistent Threats)

She would routinely rent sports utility vehicles instead of less-expensive compact cars. On one trip, she rented an SUV “for a total of $270 but only drove the SUV six miles from the pickup and drop off location.” On nearly half of her domestic trips, she would stay at hotels that cost more than the amount the government allows.

Her foreign travel caught the attention of inspectors as well. On a trip to Sydney, Australia, Patrick booked a business-class accommodations without providing justification for it. That decision cost taxpayers $14,000 even though there were seats available at the government rate around $3,300.

The IG also criticized Patrick for the appearance of nepotism when her husband was hired for a term with FLETC’s Law Enforcement Leadership Institute from January 3, 2010, to September 11, 2011.

Patrick “never had any involvement” in her husband’s hire, she claimed. In a sworn statement, Patrick said she “submitted recusal letters to the FLETC Designated Agency Ethics Official … regarding my husband’s employment with FLETC.” That statement makes it sound like Patrick had sent the letter before her husband was hired; but in reality, her letter to the ethics official was dated June 9, 2010 — six months after her husband started work.

The IG couldn’t prove Patrick’s influence got her husband hired, but it also could not say the people making the hiring decision weren’t influenced in hiring the husband of the director of their program.

“Even the appearance of nepotism can negatively impact an agency,” the IG wrote. Patrick retired before any disciplinary action could come from the agency.

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