The chief watchdog at the National Archives announced his retirement last night – conveniently just ahead of a scathing report out today that shows he created a toxic work environment involving inappropriate sexual and racist remarks. His annual salary? Roughly $186,000.
The report is the product of a two-year investigation by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, which concluded that the behavior by Paul Brachfeld, the Archives’ IG, undermined the “integrity reasonably expected of an IG.”
Branchfeld, who worked at the agency for 35 years, was put on paid leave while auditors probed allegations he’d made extremely inappropriate remarks about his employees. He collected upwards of $400,000 in government salary over the two-year investigation.
The Council of IGs said they were “particularly disturbed by the comments Brachfeld made concerning interracial marriage, comments concerning pregnant women, and comments indicating [he] was interested in dating NARA employees or contractors,” the report said.
He was also accused of altering audits and providing sensitive information to reporters, though those accusations were unsubstantiated, the report said.
“The [inspector general] is supposed to set a tone and personal example of rectitude and propriety,” the panel said in the report, “and should not himself be making comments or fail to stop behavior by his staff that he or she is aware of that belittles or demeans others.”
Brachfeld’s case not only raises questions about whether the government should put employees charged with misconduct on paid leave, left to collect sometimes hundreds of thousands in tax dollars. It also highlights concerns many reform advocates have about IG vacancies and their impact on office culture.
While Branchfeld was being paid to sit on the sidelines, James Springs stepped in to serve as the acting IG. The agency continues to have just an acting IG – which, critics say, makes it more difficult to provide effective oversight.
“This situation proved the process for investigating allegations against an inspector general is broken,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Government Executive. “It shouldn’t take two years to resolve allegations, and an inspector general certainly shouldn’t be sidelined for that long before anything is proven.
The agency was without a permanent inspector general for that time, and the inspector general was on paid leave without working. The current system hurts taxpayers.” He added he wants to “fix the broken process, among other reforms, and beef up the independence and strength of inspectors general.”
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