Anne Milgram Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrator is the subject of a probe into claims she hired a series of former colleagues and friends through costly no-bid contracts, as the Daily Caller reports.
The investigation, being conducted by the Office of Inspector General at the Justice Department, is focused on the hiring of roughly a dozen employees under the aforementioned contracts and at costs that significantly exceeded typical pay for governmental employees.
According to the Associated Press, some of those hired in this manner were individuals working in the areas of data analytics, intelligence, public relations, and community outreach, areas traditionally handled DEA staff with security clearances.
Milgram is also under fire over disbursement of $1.4 million to a D.C. Law firm to pay for a review of the agency's foreign operations, an assessment co-written by the former right-hand to then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, one of Milgram's best friends.
Remarking on the probe was Scott Amey, general counsel with the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group.
“Some of these deals look very swampy,” he said, adding that contracting in the federal realm is not meant to sidestep the federal hiring process and should always be done with an eye toward avoiding conflicts of interest or even the appearance of the same.
Amey declared, “Contracts should never be awarded based on who you know,” and noted that government contractors are not permitted to tackle “inherently governmental functions,” which include supervising or directing federal workers.
The AP indicated that the probe of Milgram's conduct was launched several months ago after a number of employees complained about what they were observing.
Notably, the agency did not put Milgram forward for an interview regarding the probe, but rather released a statement on its current priorities.
“DEA has acted with urgency to set a new vision, target the global criminal networks responsible for hundreds of thousands of American deaths, raise public awareness about how just one pill can kill, and promote and recruit hundreds of highly talented people,” the statement began.
The agency's communication continued, “These changes have been made through an extensive and multi-part process, and we are committed to ensuring that DEA is working relentlessly to protect the national security, safety, and health of the American people.”
Milgram's defenders, including former Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley, suggested that the probe could have been sparked by disgruntled employees dissatisfied with the fast pace of change at the agency, something spurred by the administrator's unmistakable desire to, as the AP put it, “clean house” in response to a reputed culture of misconduct.
Even so, the voluminous examples of seemingly redundant – and exorbitantly expensive – hires made outside the standard government hiring processes included in the probe have continued to raise eyebrows, with former acting director and general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics declaring, “This looks terrible to taxpayers. The appearance is awful.”
As the AP noted, if it is ultimately determined that misconduct did occur on Milgram's watch, the Inspector General can recommend a range of outcomes, including administrative sanctions at the low end all the way up to the filing of criminal charges, but precisely what comes of the current probe, only time will tell.