Bush-Era EPAer Flew Home Most Weekends On Taxpayers’ Dime

(REUTERS/Jim Young)

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Environmental Protection Agency officials haven’t fixed management gaps in employee-travel oversight that allowed a former EPA regional administrator to fly repeatedly to and from his San Francisco office 400 miles away from his home in Orange County, according to a new report from the EPA Office of Inspector General.

EPA officials, despite chastisement from the IG in a 2011 report and the conviction of another employee in 2013 for travel fraud, still allow employees to self-approve their tax-paid travels, the IG said.

The unnamed EPA official was appointed by President George W. Bush and charged taxpayers $69,000 for 51 trips between home and the agency’s region nine office in San Francisco between 2007 and 2009, the IG said. His subordinates approved his travel expenses, “which raises concerns about whether subordinates would adequately review their supervisor’s travel,” the IG said.

“The former region nine administrator made excessive trips to Southern California and claimed ineligible travel costs,” said the IG.

The official’s appointment month, title and city of residence in the IG report match Wayne Nastri, who was appointed by Bush October 2001. Nastri now works in Washington, D.C. at the environmental consulting firm E 4 Strategic Solutions.

“I am disappointed that I was not provided an opportunity to review the EPA OIG report before it was released publicly, and that I was not even shown any of the documents on which the allegations are based,” Nastri said.

“I am looking forward to working with the agency to address the OIG’s concerns and be part of a fair and reasonable process to review the data and present an accurate and complete record of my travel. Like all federal officials, my travel and expenses were regularly and thoroughly reviewed and audited by internal agency personnel. I am confident that a fair and collaborative process will produce an accurate result, and I will responsibly resolve this matter,” he said.

This isn’t the only time EPA employees reportedly have pulled the wool over taxpayers’ eyes with expensive or unnecessary flights. EPA’s chief climate-change expert, John Beale, was sentenced to 32 months behind bars in December 2013 for charging numerous first-class personal trips to London and California while pretending to be a CIA operative and collecting a $200,000 annual salary from EPA without working.

Jim Smith, the prosecutor in Beale’s case, called him a “poster child for what is wrong with government.”

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