Every week it seems another federal government Inspector General’s report surfaces, detailing the grift and malfeasance that permeated the DNA of the Trump administration. Today’s installment: two former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials appointed by Donald Trump committed payroll fraud by directing that two of their staffers keep receiving their paychecks even after they had been fired.
The EPA’s Office of Inspector General also found that the two officials, former EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson and former White House liaison Charles Munoz, also conspired to give Munoz an improper pay increase that cost the EPA – and ultimately U.S. taxpayers – more than $130,000.
One of those employees, Madeline Morris, was terminated from her job as a scheduler for former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt in August 2017. The report stated that Jackson met with Morris on Aug. 31, 2017, and told her “we’ll take care of you” by ensuring that she would receive “severance pay,” even though it’s not allowed for federal employees.
The other aide named in the report was Kevin Chmielewski, who was forced to leave his position as a former EPA deputy chief of staff of operations in February 2018. According to the report, Munoz met with Chmielewski on Feb. 12, 2018 to advise him to resign immediately — “because I was told to do so by Jackson and Pruitt.” Chmielewski told investigators he refused to resign and was escorted from the building by armed security guards. “They lied for weeks. They said that I resigned,” Chmielewski told The Washington Post. “And then, weeks and months went by where I was still receiving a paycheck.”
It appears that the unearned pay that Munoz and Jackson funneled to Morris and Chmielewski was intended to encourage them to keep silent about shenanigans with Pruitt’s public calendar. Both of them had objected to the deletion of items from his calendar, including a dinner that Pruitt had in Rome with a Vatican cardinal who later was charged with sexual misconduct. Chmielewski told investigators he believed he had been fired as retaliation for telling Pruitt and Jackson that such calendar alterations were illegal. Pruitt resigned as EPA in July 2018 amid multiple controversies over his spending, ethics and management.
The IG report also found that Jackson signed off on an improper four-step pay increase for Munoz, resulting in a loss to the government of $40,575.11. And it uncovered that Munoz lied about his work hours and attendance for several pay periods, resulting in an additional loss to the government – and taxpayers – of $55,150.44.