Homeland Security watchdog faces fresh allegations

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Brendan Bordelon Contributor
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The embattled deputy inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security destroyed incriminating documents to prevent their public release, used federal funds to pay for two Puerto Rican vacations, and bugged his employees’ phones and email, a new letter from Cause of Action, a government-accountability group, charges.

The recent allegations against Charles Edwards add to those leveled last week by the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The Daily Caller News Foundation reported on Friday that the committee accused Edwards of whitewashing a politically sensitive report, abusing agency resources, and committing a slew of other offenses.

“Inspectors general are put in place to hold agencies accountable and conduct thorough and accurate investigations of misconduct within agencies,” Cause of Action Communications Director Mary Beth Hutchins told TheDC News Foundation.

“When the deputy inspector general is the one who is causing the corruption and who is actually in hot water himself, it’s a disservice not only to his office but to the agency and the American people as well,” Hutchins continued.

According to the group, anonymous insiders say that Edwards routinely ordered the destruction or removal of records from his office’s Freedom of Information Act database in order to avoid questions about his wrongdoing.

In one instance, whistle-blowers allege that documents sought by a reporter regarding the teleworking history of Edwards’ wife inexplicably disappeared from their internal database and email systems. Edwards is accused of breaking anti-nepotism laws by employing his wife, and putting pressure on subordinates to approve her seven-month teleworking stint in India.

The letter also states that Edwards took two separate four-day trips to Puerto Rico on the government’s dime, ostensibly for a “site check” of a sparsely staffed inspector general’s office in San Juan. Insiders report that Edwards spent little time at that office, presumably enjoying the sights and sounds of the Caribbean commonwealth instead.

In one visit, he allegedly took six other high-level employees with him, including his personal secretary.

Finally, the letter maintains that Edwards spied on and abused his employees, cultivating a toxic work environment that made it difficult for the office to investigate waste, fraud and abuse at the Department of Homeland Security.

Worried that someone was leaking information about his transgressions to a journalist, sometime in early 2012 Edwards instructed his IT department to monitor the phone and email communications of his employees.

“He would know things that he only would’ve discovered through their emails and then would go and yell at them,” an insider said.

Another source said that Edwards was verbally abusive and had no patience for dissenting employees.

“If you tell him ‘No,’ he takes that as insubordination,” the whistle-blower alleged. “So if anyone opposes him, he finds reasons to put them on administrative leave.”

The letter was sent to the White House on Monday and calls on President Barack Obama to immediately fire Edwards and nominate a permanent inspector general. The Department of Homeland Security has languished without a Senate-confirmed watchdog since February 2011.

Cause of Action recently sued the inspector general’s office for the release of records under the Freedom of Information Act, and says it will continue to pursue any facts or documents detailing Edwards’ misconduct.

“Inspectors general are supposed to be this watchdog within the government,” Hutchins said, “but unfortunately in this case, the watchdog is not guarding anything but his own reputation.”

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