VA responds to reports of misconduct
The department says it's "aggressively pursuing a thorough review of the situation"
In response to recent Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general reports that officials allegedly abused their authority, misused their positions, engaged in prohibited personnel practices, improperly administered awards and engaged in nepotism while working in the department’s information technology office, the VA gave this statement late on Aug. 20:
“VA is aware of the findings detailed in the OIG reports. VA expects our employees to set the highest levels of personal and professional conduct; therefore, we are extremely concerned by the descriptions of alleged improper conduct by VA staff. The department is aggressively pursuing a thorough review of the situation and will continue to work with the appropriate authorities. VA does not condone misconduct by its employees and will take the appropriate corrective actions for those who violate VA policy.”
In a response to a subsequent inquiry about speaking with the VA employees named in the report, a VA spokeswoman said because the investigation is ongoing, the department had no further comment.
Meanwhile, Kevin Owen, attorney for Katherine Adair Martinez, identified in the report as VA's deputy assistant secretary for information protection and risk management, said on August 21 that he and his client had only been given the IG findings on August 20, and were not prepared to comment in detail. Martinez is one of the key VA employees implicated in the IG's findings.
However, Owen said that based on an initial review, the IG findings pertaining to Martinez contain inaccuracies. In particular, he said, "I understand some of the allegations or quotes that are attributed to others in the report are not what the others said to the IG," although he did not elaborate.
“Ms. Martinez is understandably hurt and upset by the allegations and she’s looking forward to the opportunity to provide a defense after we are able to look at many of the inaccuracies that are in the report,” Owen said.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Duncan, whom the IG said abused her authority and engaged in nepotism and other misconduct before her retirement in April 2009, couldn’t be immediately located by FCW. The Associated Press reported that a man who answered the phone at Duncan's residence said she was not available and not to call back.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.