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Federal follies hurt taxpayers
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Now that Tax Day 2014 has passed, painful as a gallstone for the middle-class, do you know where your federal tax dollars are going?
Incredibly, some of your hard-earned money is paying for federal workers who cling to their cushy jobs despite manifest misconduct that would get most of us fired.
According to recent investigative media reports and congressional hearings, bad behavior among high-level federal bureaucrats is a serious problem. For example, “A program analyst (J’Vaughn Hawkins) at the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent up to three hours a day for five years working on private business deals – including once arranging to supply lap dancers for a private party – while he was supposed to be doing government work.”
Grounds for dismissal? Not by HUD standards. The miscreant Mr. Hawkins received a mere 30-day suspension, a slap on the wrist, for his five years of frivolity at taxpayer expense.
Not to be outdone by her  male colleague, another HUD employee, auditor Deona Madden, was cited by investigators  for “running a trucking business from her post at HUD’s office of public and Indian housing.” Grounds for dismissal? Of course not. The malfeasant Madam Madden received a two-week suspension. “I am not attempting to make any excuses for my behavior, but I can confidently state that I was not the only one conducting personal business while at work,” she wrote in a rebuttal to HUD. Gee, that sure sounds like an excuse and a lame one to boot.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken protection to ridiculous extremes when it comes to shielding its own errant employees. Director of Administration Renee Page, who “received the prestigious Presidential Rank Award in 2010, sold jewelry and weight-loss products from work and hired 17 family members and friends for paid internships.” As far as I know, Renee still reigns at EPA, along with another, so far unidentified employee, who “spent two to six hours a day since 2010 looking up pornography while managing to earn performance awards,” according to the inspector general’s office.
  “I can probably count all the people on two hands I’ve seen fired,” lamented Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., at a recent hearing into EPA employee misconduct. “But something needs to be changed when people are breaking the law, when you have this GS-14 sitting there abusing his position, his salary, ripping off the taxpayers.”
That “something” that needs to be changed is the current corporate culture of the federal bureaucracy, where public service is all too often perceived as a perk for private gain. Unfortunately, the chances for substantive reform by Congress are somewhere between slim and none, given the symbiotic relationship between politicians and public employee unions. More on all that later.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at