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Homeland Security watchdog under investigation by Senate panel

Employees accuse Deputy Inspector Gen. Charles Edwards of nepotism, abusing his position and covering up details about a Secret Service prostitution scandal.

July 02, 2013|By Brian Bennett
  • Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill sent a letter to Deputy Inspector Gen. Charles K. Edwards explaining that he was under investigation.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill sent a letter to Deputy Inspector Gen.… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON — The official in charge of investigating potential misdeeds at the Department of Homeland Security is under investigation on allegations of nepotism, abusing his position and covering up details about a Secret Service prostitution scandal.

Senate investigators are looking into allegations that Deputy Inspector Gen. Charles K. Edwards was "susceptible to political pressure" and that he changed and withheld information for reports on the misconduct of U.S. Secret Service agents who hired prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, during a visit before a 2012 presidential trip, according to a letter two senators sent to Edwards on June 27.

"Numerous" complaints from fellow employees allege that Edwards improperly employed his wife, Madhuri Edwards, as a supervisory auditor in his office, that he arranged for her to telecommute from India for seven months, and that he took "retaliatory action" against people who objected, according to the letter from Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who chairs the oversight subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the subcommittee's top Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Subordinates also alleged that Edwards misused travel funds, gave bonuses to employees who helped him write a dissertation for a PhD course in information systems at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and used aides to complete lesson plans for a course he taught as an adjunct professor at Capitol College in Laurel, Md.

On Tuesday, Edwards took a break from what he described as a "family vacation in India" to issue a bulletin under the office of inspector general letterhead. He denied wrongdoing and said the allegations were "completely without merit."

"I will defend myself against these personal attacks," Edwards wrote during a trip to Chennai, formerly known as Madras. He said similar allegations had been reviewed and dismissed by other oversight bodies.

"I am very disturbed that false allegations have been made against me, but more importantly, I am very concerned that this matter may negatively impact the important oversight work of the office of inspector general," Edwards wrote.

Edwards, who has spent more than 20 years in government, said he was prevented by federal rules from disclosing information in his defense.

Edwards has served as the senior official in the inspector general's office since February 2011. Some members of Congress believe he has tried to curry favor with the Obama administration by softening his reports in hopes of being nominated as permanent head of the department.

The inspector general is an independent body responsible for conducting and supervising audits, investigations and inspections of Homeland Security programs and operations. Its goal is to prevent and detect fraud, abuse, mismanagement and waste. The office has more than 600 employees around the country.

brian.bennett@latimes.com

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