BY MAIRE O’NEILL
The Office of Inspector General has found no evidence to substantiate allegations the Department of Energy employees inappropriately accepted meals and sporting event tickets purchased by the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities.
In a report published July 2, DOE Deputy Inspector General for Audits and Inspections says a hotline complaint was received concerning alleged ethics violations by multiple Department employees, including three specific Department officials and that the Department initiated the inspection to determine facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations.
Because the allegations were not substantiated, the Inspector General made no recommendations or suggested actions.
“However, when reviewing the RCLC grant funding information provided by the Department, we did identify potential concerns regarding the Department’s oversight and management of the grant awarded to RCLC. A separate inspection is in process to assess the use of grant funds by RCLC,” the report states.
The report indicates that during the course of the Inspection it was found that two local Los Alamos Site Office employees admitted to accepting food valued at less than $20 while at a luncheon with former RCLC executive director not State Rep. Andrea Romero. The Code of Federal Regulations Standards for Ethical Conduct allow an employee to accept unsolicited gifts having an aggregate market value of $20 or less per source, per occasion provided the aggregate market value of individual gifts from any one person did not exceed $50 in a calendar year.
“All other Department employees we interviewed during our inspection stated that they had not accepted any gifts from the former RCLC executive director, and if they did attend events where meals were involved, they reimbursed the former RCLC executive director for the cost of their meals, in cash, at the time the event took place. Because of the cash nature of the transactions, there was no documentation to show reimbursement; however, we obtained statements under oath from the Department employees and obtained a statement from the former RCLC executive director corroborating the fact that the employees paid cash for their meals,” the report states.
At the June 7 meeting of the RCLC, current executive director Eric Vasquez revealed that the RCLC had not received its annual $100,000 grant from DOE. At the board’s June 27 meeting he told board members that the RCLC had not submitted to DOE for the annual grant, an announcement that surprised board members. According to Vasquez, no formal notice was received from DOE stating that the grant would not be awarded or why. The inspection was conducted from April 2018 to February 2019.