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May 7, 2014

Porn-watching EPA employee revealed in watchdog's investigation

WASHINGTON — An employee at the Environmental Protection Agency downloaded more than 7,000 pornographic files onto a government computer and viewed them for two to six hours a day, according to the agency's independent watchdog.

The worker, who wasn't identified, was watching pornography when a special agent showed up at his work space, Allan Williams, the EPA's deputy assistant inspector general for investigations, told lawmakers Wednesday.

"True deterrence of employee misconduct at the EPA ultimately rests with agency executives and managers to set a tone that ensures such behavior will not be condoned," Williams told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The allegations emerged in a broader examination of EPA employees. The EPA's 16,000 employees are facing greater scrutiny by the Office of Inspector General after the 2013 conviction of senior agency official John Beale for collecting paychecks for more than a decade during which he had not worked. Beale explained absences to his EPA supervisors by telling them he was working on classified projects, including for the Central Intelligence Agency, which wasn't true.

Bob Perciasepe, the No. 2 EPA official, told the House panel everyone is "offended by the actions" of Beale, who was charged with stealing $900,000 in pay and benefits.

"We have taken steps to put measures in place to help ensure this type of fraud cannot be repeated," he said.

Williams said Wednesday that a senior agency executive approved Beale's fraudulent time records and travel vouchers for a decade without exercising due diligence. Another EPA manager separately let an employee collect full pay and benefits without reporting to work, costing more than $500,000.

"Even more egregious is that this EPA manager authored and approved exemplary performance appraisals that resulted in a cash award for the absent employee," Williams said Wednesday.

The employee caught viewing pornography is still on the payroll, earning about $120,000 a year, and the case has been referred to the Justice Department for prosecution, Williams said.

Panel chairman Darrell Issa of California said he would provide Perciasepe with a list of some of the pornographic websites that the employee visited. He said the list wouldn't be made public.

"Somebody viewing pornographic sites, should be terminated and not be given bonuses," Issa said.

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