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By CNN Chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper
Inspectors general are the internal watchdogs in government, the independent officers upon whom the public relies.
But what happens when the inspectors general themselves are accused of wrongdoing? Who watches the watchmen?
CNN has obtained a letter from the chair and ranking Republican on the Senate subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight to the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Charles Edwards, laying out a number of potentially damaging allegations against him, including his being susceptible to political pressure to the point that an investigation into Secret Service misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, was scrubbed of damaging information.
Other allegations that the senators are seeking more information about include that Edwards violated anti-nepotism laws, and abused agency resources and his authority.
A spokesman for the Inspector General's office told CNN that Edwards was on a family vacation in India and could not be reached for comment.
The letter from Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, to Charles Edwards, the deputy inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security who also serves as acting inspector general, is unusually harsh in its assessment of how Edwards has carried out his duties. McCaskill’s and Johnson’s subcommittee is part of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and has jurisdiction over Edwards.
The two allege that over the past year they “have been alerted by numerous whistleblowers to allegations of misconduct and abuse by you in your position.” These include the charge that Edwards is “susceptible to political pressure” as suggestions by allegations that two reports looking into U.S. Secret Service misconduct in Colombia – the non-public report given Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on September 26, 2012, and the January 29, 2013, public report titled “Adequacy of USSS’ Internal Investigation of Alleged Misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia” – were scrubbed of damaging information. In the nonpublic report, damaging information was “intentionally changed and withheld,” whistleblowers allege, while the “public report did not contain relevant and damaging information contained in the non-public report.”
Other allegations suggest that Edwards “violated anti-nepotism laws and policies” to employ his wife, Madhuri Edwards, as a supervisory auditor in his office. Beyond that, Edwards is alleged to have misused staff to help his wife pursue a Ph.D. at a local community college, and intervened improperly to allow her to telecommute from India from seven months with an office international BlackBerry phone. The allegations against Edwards also suggest that he retaliated against staff who “brought or attempted to call attention to your misconduct.”
Edwards is also alleged to have “abused agency resources” in his pursuit of a Ph.D. in information systems from Nova Southeastern University and in his outside employment as an adjunct professor at Capitol College in Laurel, Maryland: misused office funds to attend Ph.D. classes under the guise of conducting “site visits” to an OIG field office: and used staffers to work on assignments, write his Ph.D. dissertation, complete lesson plans, and compile homework assignments and tests.
Edwards is also alleged to have misused office bonuses to reward those who helped him and to have abused his authority by punishing those who expressed concern about his behavior. The senators seek background information that might substantiate the allegations, as well as interviews with a number of staff members.