Did a top official from the Department of Education receive a ‘golden parachute’ upon his leaving the administration for a consulting gig?
Documents released Tuesday by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) show Robert Shireman, a top force at Education pushing “gainful employment” regulations, continued to receive generous federal benefits after he became an intermittent consultant for the agency.
A correspondence summary shows officials arranged to begin his consulting contract “immediately following his departure from his position as Deputy Undersecretary in the Office of the Under Secretary so he could retain his federal benefits.”
CREW says the arrangement violated federal personnel policies, which prevent intermittent consultants like Shireman from receiving sick leave, health care and other benefits, and is asking an inspector general to investigate.
“Mr. Shireman got one heck of a deal: benefits available to federal employees without the bother of a full-time job,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Given his role in the growing scandal that shows the cozy relationship between DOE officials and Wall Street short-sellers, the inspector general needs to take a look at this arrangement and find out who agreed to it and why.”
An April 19 letter from Sloan to the Education Department’s inspector general says “the terms of Mr. Shireman’s appointment as an intermittent consultant conflict directly with governing personnel rules and policies.”
Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the Education Department, said Shireman’s shift in positions from agency official to consultant served a key policy purpose of the agency.
“The reason why he was retained as a consultant was to the assist the department in its efforts to make a full transition to direct lending,” Hamilton said.
CREW is also involved in litigation regarding Freedom of Information Act requests to the agency regarding the influence of Wall Street short sellers pushing strict regulations on the for-profit education sector.
Recently, under legal pressure, the Education Department conceded it had failed to send CREW approximately 10,000 emails related to the issue. The e-mails will be released to the public soon and could provide a more detailed picture on whether short sellers influenced the regulatory process.