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Letters to the Editor: May 29, 2014

Keeping fat cats fat

To the Editor:

In a recent article the Inspector General of the government has done an investigation to find out how many government employees who were paid retention bonuses they weren’t supposed to get. Most of these employees worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and the money was calculated on their current salaries. Nearly all of these people were working at the top of the agency.

The tip came when John Beale a former executive at the EPA claimed he worked for the CIA to keep getting paid for doing nothing. His lies got him nearly $900,000 in cash. John C. Beale allegedly told his bosses he was away from his job in order to conduct “sensitive work for another agency,” and after 12 years racked up $880,000 in pay and bonuses he did not earn. Beale, who was a senior policy adviser in the Office of Air and Radiation pled guilty at a hearing in U.S. District Court.

The EPA paid more than $667,000 in retention bonuses to 13 employees from 2006 through 2013. For 10 of those workers, however, the EPA failed to document any recertification as required by federal statute. This failure of oversight resulted in nearly half a million dollars in uncertified incentive payments. Problem is, nearly all of these recipients will have to pay it back.

The Office of Personnel Management allows for retention bonuses of up to 25 percent of employees’ base pay or 50 percent if an agency receives special permission for any worker with “unusually high or unique qualifications” and who is “likely to leave the federal service in the absence of” an incentive payment program. OPM requires the agency to annually review the need for the bonus and to document in writing its determination.

One employee, however, received retention payments for four years after being promoted. The bonus should have been cut off, the IG said, but because of a human resources glitch and the agency’s lack of internal controls the worker received nearly $105,000 in unearned payments.

EPA regulations place the burden of reporting overpayments on the employee if they’re honest. That worker and a second employee who received a post-promotion incentive have already received debt notices, and the auditors recommended EPA target other individuals whose payments were not certified to determine if any other debts are owed to the government.

But this isn’t all that’s going on. An internal investigation by the agency itself found that one employee was being paid for two years when she was moved to a retirement home and did no work. When the inspectors found out she was put on sick leave. Still another employee who had a serious illness was allowed to work at home and for the last five years didn’t do anything. She was paid nearly $600,000. Still another was found to have over 7,000 pornographic images on his EPA computer.

You got to admit, it’s really good work if you can get it.

Robert Pike, Town of Stanton


Second effect of drug use is loss of morals

To the Editor:

I read your front page story last night, well, the front page of it, and said to myself that is a clear example of the second effect of drugs. I told it to my driver, and he didn’t understand, so I will try to explain it again.

When a person gets high, they have that timeframe of the high, to them it is a mellow effect and a wonderful state of mind. Then it seems, especially with meth, they come into a second effect. It lasts a lot longer than the high.

The second effect is where they lose their morals. They are no longer high, and can function like a normal person, but they don’t have their morals. Look at the guy’s rap sheet. He stole a car, stole gas, fled an officer, drove at speeds of 120 mph, threw meth out the window and crashed into an officer.

To travel on Highways 12, 63 and 64 at those speeds, he had to have been sober, but to commit all those crimes he had lost his morals.

That is the second effect. You see it on the news all over the place. People do bizarre things. They have simply lost their morals, but are sober enough to commit the crimes.

That is a hidden reason not to use drugs.

Pat Schottler, Town of Erin Prairie