A top lawyer with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) used his position to get his wife a job he helped create with the agency, gave her sensitive information, then lied about it to investigators, according to a government watchdog’s Monday report.
Robert Fleck, a senior VA executive and chief counsel, recommended his wife during a June 2016 conference call with other senior executives for a position he was helping create, according to a VA inspector general (IG) report.
“Mr. Fleck had a conflict of interest, engaged in nepotism, improperly shared VA sensitive data and made false statements,” the report said. He also engaged in “acts affecting his personal financial interest when he used his position to advocate for the employment of his wife.”
The IG referred its findings to the Department of Justice, which declined prosecution “due, in part, to available administrative remedies,” the report said.
Additionally, emails the IG reviewed showed Fleck played a role in designing and announcing the position he advocated for his wife to fill.
Fleck also sent his wife “sensitive data” while she was being vetted for the position, the report said. The attachment he sent in an email “was specifically marked ‘This message is not to be forwarded to anyone outside of the [VA] or to anyone within the VA that does not have direct involvement/interest with this matter.'”
The couple “made false statements when questioned about it during their respective interviews,” the report said. Fleck and his wife told investigators that the VA data “was not shared until after she was selected for the position, [emphasis theirs].”
The IG report did not name Fleck’s wife, instead referring to her as “Ms. KW.”
The Fleck received ethics training that said “you may not participate in official VA matters involving your spouse,” according to the IG report. Similarly, federal law states that public officials are prohibited from playing a role in placing relatives in positions where the government employee would be acting as a supervisor.
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