President-elect Donald Trump promised to “#draintheswamp” and The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has a few suggestions on how accomplishing this goal can be launched on his first day in the Oval Office.
Numerous investigations have identified government workers who have gone unpunished for often serious wrongdoing, if they weren’t rewarded, and others uncorrected, for wasteful mismanagement. Here are a few examples that could be immediately rectified.
1. Drain The Department of Veterans Affairs
TheDCNF has reported multiple Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees who were either not fired or were rehired after committing serious misconduct or even crimes.
The Phoenix VA, for example, hired Deloris Judd over veterans and other applicants soon after she was fired from the North Chicago VA for numerous incidents of patient abuse. Similarly, the Caribbean VA hired convicted sex offender Edwin Trinidad Nieves to vet potential employees.
An internal report recommended that yet another VA official, Lucy Filipov, be fired for connections to records falsification, abuse of authority, tax evasion and whistleblower retaliation, but the agency instead rewarded her.
These are just a few examples of the many bad VA employees TheDCNF’s Luke Rosiak has reported. Trump could immediately fire these officials.
2. Fire And Prosecute Bad Employees
The VA isn’t alone in retaining bad employees. A DCNF investigation found that President Barack Obama’s administration has prosecuted fewer public corruption cases than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton’s administrations.
TheDCNF and others have identified numerous officials who kept their federal jobs, despite strong evidence of serious misconduct, because the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to prosecute them.
The DOJ refused to prosecute a federal official, for example, who caused what is likely the worst Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-caused eco-disaster ever – the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado. The EPA Inspector General provided evidence that an agency official violated the Clean Water Act and made false statements, but DOJ declined to press charges.
No one was punished in any way for the 2015 disaster, which polluted drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation with 3 million gallons of mine waste and turned the Animus River and several of its tributaries yellow for days.
Other protected employees include an EPA employee who was caught with marijuana and related paraphernalia on federal property; two Bureau of Indian Affairs employees who falsified documents to profit on a gas company; and a Department of the Interior official who hired a relative over qualified veterans.
The Justice Department declined even to attend a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing to explain why they declined to prosecute such employees.
Like the VA, Trump could immediately fire officials TheDCNF and others have identified and order his Justice Department to prosecute such employees.
3. Evict Fugitives Living In Taxpayer-Funded Homes
Trump could evict the thousands of fugitives living in Department of Urban Development (HUD)-funded homes. Federal laws ban such tenants from living in federally-funded homes, but neither HUD nor federally funded local public housing authorities enforce the statutes.
HUD doesn’t know how many fugitives live in federally-funded units, but there were approximately 1,300 in just one of 10 HUD regions in 2012, according to an IG report that was unpublished for so-called data quality issues until TheDCNF made it public. Many of the fugitives were wanted for crimes like rape and murder.
TheDCNF’s reporting prompted Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to request the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate how many fugitives lived in HUD-funded homes nationwide.
Trump, however, could order HUD to enforce existing law and consistently ensure that tenants living in agency-funded homes are not wanted for felonies.
4. Sell Or At Least Destroy Vacant Federal Buildings
The federal government annually spends more than $1.7 billion maintaining vacant buildings, TheDCNF previously reported. There were more than 7,000 “excess or underutilized” properties in 2015, according to GAO. The issue, in fact, has been on GAO’s high-risk list since 2003.
The Department of Agriculture’s 118,000-square-foot Cotton Annex in Washington, D.C., for example, has been empty since 2007. It was recently scheduled for destruction after the General Services Administration (GSA) spent years trying to pawn it off to the private sector.
The Trump administration could save tax dollars by using, leasing, selling or even destroying vacant federal properties.
5. Properly Screen Contractors And Use Reliable Security
Active shooters and terrorist attacks could threaten thousands of federal buildings due to GSA’s failure to issue secure ID badges, TheDCNF previously reported. Meanwhile, unscreened contractors had access to a federal building in New York near a thwarted Islamic State plot.
Trump could protect the federal workforce and visiting members of the public by better screening contractors who have access to government buildings and by forcing GSA to stop issuing easily-counterfeited ID badges, as the agency promised to do years ago.
A GSA spokesman previously told TheDCNF the badges would no longer be issued, but no one replied to a Veterans Day follow-up inquiry about whether that change was implemented. GSA, however, had already ignored such an order for eight years. Additionally, agencies frequently ignore or delay carrying out such recommendations.
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