EPA Administrator McCarthy’s Star Turn in “The Spy Who Duped Me”

by William Yeatman on December 12, 2013

in Blog

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The plot is thickening with regard to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s role in l’affaire Beale, the case of the phony spy who duped the agency out of almost a million dollars in undeserved bonuses and reimbursements.

John C. Beale—if that is his real name—will be sentenced this week in a federal court. He’s looking at a minimum of thirty months in prison, a stiff punishment that reflects the gravity of his crime. According to EPA’s press shop, Mr. Beale “went to great lengths to deceive and defraud the U.S. government.” The agency’s account, however, is belied by the evidence.

In fact, Mr. Beale fooled the EPA without much effort. He took fancy trips, and then charged EPA for reimbursements, and no questions were asked. He took paid leave time off, claiming that he was moonlighting for the CIA, and no questions were asked. These are not the devices of a criminal mastermind; rather, they are the markings of negligent oversight.

Imagine if you were a manager, and a high ranking official in your shop was receiving thousands of dollars of paid time while claiming to be working for the CIA. Wouldn’t you think: ‘Why isn’t he billing the CIA?’ That’s an obvious question, yet no one at EPA asked it. Again, this is oversight so lax that it borders, if not crosses into, negligence.

Absent spin, the Beale situation is an unfavorable mark on his superior’s record. Mr. Beale was a high ranking official at the EPA office of Air and Radiation. From February 2009 to February 2013, Beale’s boss was Gina McCarthy, who has since been promoted to EPA Administrator. Logically, Administrator McCarthy is where the buck stopped. As Beale’s boss, she shouldered some responsibility for his getting away with this outrageous ruse.

But that’s not how it was portrayed! Far from it. Instead of being depicted as a blundering bureaucrat, McCarthy was praised as having been the sleuth who discovered Beale’s deceit. Consider the following headline:


Where did Climate Progress get the idea that Gina McCarthy was the private eye that broke the Beale case wide open? They got it from EPA, whose press shop maintains that McCarthy “uncovered” the fraud. Presumably, it was an EPA official who leaked to the press McCarthy’s proactive role in exposing Mr. Beale’s lies. As reported by the Washington Post’s  Ann Marimow & Lenny Bernstein on September 4th,

“McCarthy’s defenders said privately that she discovered the alleged activity and brought it to the attention of the authorities. She later forced Beale to retire in April 2013, according to a person familiar with the investigation.”

Sen. David Vitter, ranking Member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, smelled something fishy with the agency’s accounting of the crime, and at his behest, the EPA Inspector General investigated. The IG’s report is due to be published any day, but advanced copies have been obtained by the Washington Post’s Marimow & Bernstein, and they depict a rather different picture of the Beale matter than that painted by the EPA. Yesterday, they reported,

“On Jan. 12, 2011, the EPA’s Office of General Counsel warned McCarthy’s staff to “stop retention bonus pay,” and McCarthy was asked to inform Beale, according to the report. But on April 2, 2012, McCarthy “confirmed no actions taken on retention bonus due to advice” from the head of the human resources department, according to the report.”

So…McCarthy’s office was told to stop paying Beale, who, again, is a high ranking official. But no action was taken for well more than a year, and he continued to get paid. That doesn’t sound as flattering as, “How EPA Head Gina McCarthy Uncovered a Million-Dollar Fraudster.”

Today, the Washington Post reports on EPA’s explanation for this seeming contradiction.

“The inspector general’s office and other EPA officials have credited McCarthy with being the first to question Beale’s story that he worked as a clandestine CIA officer and for forcing him to retire. But because of lax oversight at the EPA, Beale continued to draw a paycheck until April 30, 19 months after his retirement dinner cruise on the Potomac River, which McCarthy attended.”

So…EPA continues to claim that McCarthy uncovered Beale’s CIA scheme, and then forced him to retire. But, for the next 19 months, due to “lax oversight,” this high ranking official continued to draw a paycheck, a circumstance of which McCarthy was aware since at least March 2012. Beale finally retired—for real this time—in April 2013. Heckuva job, Gina!

No doubt, there are still numerous details to be discovered. In addition to the Washington Post tandem investigating McCarthy’s actual role in the curious case of John C. Beale, several Members of Congress, including House Oversight Chairman Darrel Issa and Sen. Vitter, are looking further into the matter.

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