Sep 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Anonymous DHS employees call on Biden to fire inspector general

Photo of a Homeland Security protective patrol vehicle
A patrol car with the Department of Homeland Security is parked in the street on July 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

A group of anonymous employees at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is urging President Biden to fire DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari.

Why it matters: Cuffari, a Trump appointee, has been swept up in controversy since facing allegations of a cover-up in his office's investigation into deleted Jan. 6 Secret Service messages. Several Democrats have called on him to step down from his position.

What they're saying: "[T]he highest priorities of an inspector general are integrity and independence," the letter states. "IG Cuffari and his inner circle of senior leaders have fallen short in these areas time and time again."

  • "He has permanently damaged the reputation of DHS OIG, which already suffered public scandals and mismanagement," said the letter, which cited alleged incidents including his delaying the release of audits and editing reports to remove key findings.
  • "He no longer has the support of his workforce. Staff do not trust IG Cuffari and his senior leadership to make the right decision."
  • "IG Cuffari has made it clear that he wishes to remain in his position, even in the face of prolonged, deserved criticism in the media, from Congress, from other oversight entities, and from his own staff," the letter notes. "You are the only one who can help us before DHS OIG are forever damaged by IG Cuffari."

The letter, which was obtained by the Project On Government Oversight, is signed by "[c]oncerned DHSOIG employees representing every program office at every grade level" who say they cannot identify themselves due to fear of retaliation.

  • It's unclear how many staff members were involved.
  • The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The other side: A spokesperson for the DHS Office of Inspector General said in a statement that "Dr. Cuffari has transformed DHS OIG to a model workplace," pointing to "significant increases" in employee engagement scores during Cuffari's tenure.

  • "[S]ince his confirmation IG Cuffari has provided every OIG employee multiple opportunities to meet with him and other senior leaders, in small groups. The feedback employees have provided ... has been overwhelmingly positive and useful to continue to improve our operations."

The big picture: Two top House Democrats have alleged that Cuffari has refused to cooperate with, and even hindered, probes into the deleted Secret Service texts, and called for him to comply with congressional demands.

  • A 2013 report released earlier this year revealed that Cuffari was previously accused of misleading investigators. It raised new questions about his conduct in one of the most critical oversight roles in the federal government.
  • His office also declined to open investigations into the Secret Service's handling of Black Lives Matter protests in D.C. or the spread of COVID-19 among Secret Service members.
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