Energy officials accused of nepotism
WASHINGTON — At least a dozen children or other relatives of Energy Department officials have received summer jobs at the department in apparent violation of federal nepotism rules, an agency watchdog said Monday.
Inspector General Gregory Friedman said in a report that one senior Energy Department official was actively involved in securing summer jobs for his three college-aged children, including two who ended up getting jobs in the division where the official works.
The official, who was not named, is a senior staff member in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The report says the Energy Department is considering “appropriate corrective action” but offers no specifics.
“Nepotism or even its appearance can have a decidedly negative impact on morale within an organization,” Friedman wrote in a 19-page report.
Providing inappropriate advantages for relatives of federal employees “damages the integrity of the competitive process and erodes public trust in the federal hiring process,” Friedman added. “The impact is likely severe, especially when considering the intense competition for (summer) intern positions within the department.”
Despite those strong words, Friedman’s own office was not immune from the problem. Among those who got summer jobs was the child of an employee in the inspector general’s office, which Friedman called a “serious” matter. The employee has been reprimanded.
Friedman’s report, released Monday, says that each case involving employment of relatives has been referred to the Energy Department’s personnel office and general counsel. The counsel serves as the department’s ethics officer.
The report says the official in the renewable energy office contacted 12 Energy Department officials from seven different programs about summer jobs for his children. All three children were hired last year, including two who worked in the renewable energy division.
Bill Gibbons, a spokesman for Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, said the department takes the allegations “very seriously.” adding: “The Energy Department is committed to fair, open and transparent hiring processes that ensure every candidate is evaluated equally.”
The personnel office and general counsel are reviewing the report and the circumstances surrounding the summer hires, Gibbons said, and the department will “take appropriate action based on those findings.” The department also will provide additional training to senior employees and hiring managers on personnel rules and procedures to ensure a fair and open competitive process, Gibbons said.
The senior official in the renewable energy division told investigators that he did not believe he had done anything wrong, the report said. The official indicated that, “based on his personal observations, the practice of employees providing resumes and/or inquiring about employment for a (summer) position on behalf of relatives was common,” the report said.
Two officials who hired the senior employee’s children told investigators they did not feel pressured by the official. The officials also indicated that it was “a common practice for individuals to provide resumes or to inquire with various program offices in an effort to secure (summer) employment opportunities for relatives,” the report said. The officials said they did not believe there was a violation of nepotism rules unless the summer worker reported directly to their relative.
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