NOAA Official Creates New Job, Hires Himself For $40,000 Raise

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An inspector general report released Wednesday brought to light some pretty shady dealings at the National Weather Service, an agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to the report, just before retiring as the NWS deputy chief financial officer, P. Donald Jiron created an unfilled consulting position, then returned to work the very next day in the newly created job. Not only did he snag a $43,200 raise from his previous position, he also started collecting his government pension.

Jiron’s machinations took place in May 2010, The Washington Post reports.

The inspector general said Jiron pressured and bribed other NWS officials to hire one of his immediate family members as a contractor. (Related: NOAA Fiddles With Climate Data To Erase The 15-Year Global Warming ‘Hiatus’)

“We conclude that senior official’s actions in attempting to influence the NWS staff were improper, and some of those actions may have implicated 18 U.S.C. § 201, the criminal statute prohibiting bribery of public officials,” the IG said.

But even though Jiron’s actions may have violated federal laws, investigators said other NWS officials were equally to blame for his misdeeds because his supervisors approved his actions. The newly created consulting position was also approved by NOAA officials.

“Because of our conclusion that certain of senior official’s actions may have violated federal criminal law, the OIG referred this matter for prosecution, but the relevant prosecutors declined to pursue charges,” the report read. Criminal referrals by IGs go the Department of Justice, which then decides whether to file charges.

Jiron was immediately fired when leaders at NOAA reviewed the IG’s evidence,nearly two years after he assumed the consulting position. Jiron’s consulting work cost taxpayers $471,875, the IG said.

He also took advantage of a government contract that is intended to accommodate senior executives on temporary assignments to NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. He took nearly $50,000 to pay for his post-retirement housing expenses, even though he was not eligible for housing under the contract since he had retired and become a consultant.

Jiron’s actions may have been illegal but the IG said they aren’t uncommon at NOAA.

“This contract may be indicative of a routine and troubling practice at NOAA of hiring former employees as contractors for purposes of carrying out similar duties to those they performed prior to leaving federal service,” the report read.

The IG report may not be the last word on Jiron’s conduct. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tx., chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which has oversight authority for NWS, has taken an interest in it.

 “If the allegations prove true, Mr. Jiron’s actions are troubling and raise questions about whether this kind of behavior still occurs at NWS,” Smith said.
“Most troubling is the fact that all of Mr. Jiron’s wrongdoing was conducted with the approval of his supervisor,” he said.

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