Committee Probes Report of Self-Dealing by NOAA Employees

IG Found Senior Officials Knew an Employee Wrote $43,200 Raise, $50,000 Housing Allowance Into His Own Post-retirement Consulting Contract with Agency

June 15, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) has requested answers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about schemes by employees to enrich themselves with lucrative post-retirement contracts financed by taxpayers. The committee probe follows an investigation by the agency’s inspector general and reports that a former deputy chief financial officer, P. Donald Jiron, wrote the job description and set the salary and terms for his own post-retirement consulting post with his former employer. Only one day after he retired, Jiron returned to the same office to perform his same duties – but as a contractor with a $43,200 raise and an impermissible $50,000 housing allowance.

“The fact that senior agency officials approved this unseemly arrangement, which clearly warranted closer scrutiny, appears to be indicative of a potential agency-wide problem,” wrote Thune to NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan. “In order to maintain the integrity of the agency, NOAA’s officials must avoid conflicts of interest and adhere to and enforce federal hiring and contracting rules. When transgressions occur, the agency must also hold the responsible officials accountable.”

NOAA’s inspector general found that agency officials were fully aware of Jiron’s deal that appears to violate federal acquisition regulations and possibly criminal statute. Most disturbing of all, the Inspector General uncovered allegations that such arrangements may be prevalent at NOAA.

Thune’s letter to NOAA sets a deadline of June 26 for all requested information and also requests a briefing.

Click here for a copy of Thune’s letter to Administrator Sullivan. The Senate Commerce Committee has legislative and oversight jurisdiction over NOAA, including the component National Weather Service where Jiron worked. The National Weather Service is a component of NOAA, which is an Operating Unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce.