EDITORIAL: Party time at Veterans Affairs



The IG report alleges that Ms. Hartmann used threats to compel subordinates to join the marketing effort. She also purportedly charged taxpayers for $727.37 in travel expenses for herself and an underling to make a trip to attend the friend's grand opening.

The misuse of travel expenses didn't stop there. By arranging meetings described as "unnecessary" at medical centers in places like Colorado, Las Vegas and San Diego, she was able to rack up thousands in taxpayer-funded travel for what she called official business. Investigators described photographs from Ms. Hartmann's computer that showed her at "work" on these trips - golfing, sightseeing and taking a cruise on Stars and Stripes, the America's Cup yacht. Time stamps on the digital images suggested to investigators that some fibbing may have been used to justify the junkets. In one case, according to the report, "the project that Ms. Hartmann supposedly went to see did not physically exist."

All the travel must have taken a toll, as Ms. Hartmann, according to the report, granted herself 306 hours worth of compensatory time off. When Ms. Hartmann's superiors learned of the pending investigation into her conduct, they tipped her off and she purportedly shredded her time sheets in an unsuccessful effort to hide the offense. Believe it or not, according to the inspector general, this is not considered a crime. The government system is so tilted in favor of preserving the status quo that rogue career bureaucrats only face "administrative sanction" for malfeasance of the sort described above.

Most Americans would consider a salary of $155,500 (not counting bonus) to be a godsend, especially in such a troubled economy. Although she was making triple the median household income, that apparently wasn't enough loot for Ms. Hartmann. Investigators recommended that she be forced to pay back $26,704.48 in extra benefits she appropriated. That was the harshest penalty suggested.

The scariest aspect of this story is how little coverage it has received. In official Washington, misconduct of this sort among so-called public servants is considered business as usual. Little thought is given to being responsible stewards of public funds. But if lying, destroying evidence and misappropriating public funds don't constitute a crime, then the laws need to be rewritten. Plundering government employees should, at the very least, be fired on the spot for putting themselves above their duty.


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