Christmas came early this week for one of the naughtiest of former Department of Veterans Affairs employees, when VA’s official watchdog spared him the embarrassment of a damning official report about his illegal conduct from being made public.
The nearly 300-page report describes how the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s former top auditor and investigator spent huge portions of his time at work masturbating, not infrequently in full view of nearby members of the public.
The VA IG decided earlier this week against granting this reporter’s two-year-old Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the report. The stated reason for the denial is to protect the “privacy” of a man who intentionally positioned himself in an all-glass government conference room so that tourists would see him masturbating.
Acting VA IG Linda Halliday also refused to release any information associated with serial public masturbator Jon Wooditch. He was deputy inspector general and acting inspector general of the agency.
The government stonewalled the request, originally filed in 2013, for over two years. Earlier this month, The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained a six-page final report from a source and published the findings. (RELATED: Top VA Watchdog Resigned After Being Caught Masturbating On The Job)
Soon after the information became public, the VA FOIA officer finally responded and said the agency denied the request, invoking two exemptions to the public records law. (RELATED: Past Probes May Be Jeopardized By Former VA IG’s Deviancy)
“The privacy interests of the individuals in the records you have requested outweigh any minimal public interest in disclosure,” the FOIA officer wrote, adding that it took “note of the strong interest of … suspects … in not being unwarrantably associated with alleged criminal activity.”
The FOIA officer did not say why associating Wooditch with misconduct was “unwarranted” when the official investigation concluded that the charges were true. The officer further contended that it would be impossible to redact proper nouns and then release a version of the taxpayer-funded report on the operations of government, as is common.
The FOIA officer did not explain why it would not be in the public’s interest to know that Wooditch’s public exhibitionism occurred while an IG audit of patient wait-times conducted under his leadership missed the systematic falsification of waiting lists that caused dozens of deaths.
Wooditch denied all allegations to investigators and refused a lie detector test. He was allowed to retire, and no disciplinary action was taken against him. He initially told TheDCNF that he was never investigated, before later changing his story and saying that all the witnesses against him lied.
Cathy Gromek, an IG spokeswoman, said “if you disagree with the decision, you can file an appeal following the process outlined in the response.”
The VA IG’s leadership has often been accused in recent years of aiding and abetting the troubled department’s incompetence and misconduct, by failing to detect serious problems and keeping them secret when they are found.
The VA IG also has a poor record of not working with Congress and the Department of Justice to put a stop to problems.
Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson had to take the unusual step of using a subpoena to get information about the mismanagement fiasco at VA’s Tomah, Wisconsin, hospital. Johnson is a Wisconsin Republican.
The IG system was created by Congress to help it oversee executive branch agencies, and is supposed to work with congressional oversight committees, but the VA IG refused to comply with the legally compulsory subpoena.
The IG then sent an unsolicited “white paper” denigrating credible whistleblowers and veterans who faced abusive treatment by employees at the hospital, including accusing a dead man of being a drug dealer.
Wooditch never faced criminal charges after being confronted about public masturbation at the office. The inspector general’s office had previously promoted him to the top job, right after he was caught with porn on his work computer.
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