Cleaning house: Justice Dept. won't press charges against disgraced VA execs

We seem to be nearing the end of the saga of Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves, the two Veterans Administration executives who were found to have gamed the system for plumb positions and generous relocation payments, though it’s probably not the outcome many government watchdogs may have wished. Not too long ago, Ed covered the story of how VA officials were reluctant to fire people accused of such misbehavior, regardless of how egregious the charges may be. Shortly after that, the policy was explained by Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson who said, “You can’t fire your way to excellence.”

But surely when you get a referral to prosecute someone at the federal level, that’s the tipping point, right? Once the review is finished and your own watchdogs have sent the case over to the Justice Department to have them prosecuted, it’s time to turn the screws. As it turns out… not so much. (Government Executive)

The Justice Department will not pursue criminal charges against two former Veterans Affairs senior executives accused of using their positions of authority for personal gain.

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia declined a referral for criminal prosecution from the VA watchdog related to Diana Rubens, former director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Philadelphia office, and Kimberly Graves, former director of VBA’s St. Paul, Minn., regional office…

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has notified the VA’s Office of the Inspector General of this decision and referred the matter to the VA for any administrative action that is deemed appropriate,” the office said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has no further comment on this investigation.”

This seems a good time to remind everyone of precisely how Sloan Gibson approached this question from the beginning.

“I’m not going to recommend, I’m not going to propose a disciplinary action that is based upon media coverage, or an opinion that is expressed in the IG report, if it is not supported by the evidence,” he said, adding that he knew his decision not to fire Rubens and Graves wasn’t going to “sit well, with virtually everybody.”

He’s not going to go around taking action based on an opinion expressed by the Inspector General’s office. Then why is it exactly that we have an office of the Inspector General in all the various cabinet departments in the first place? Their “opinions” are not worth the paper they are printed on, apparently, and can simply be disregarded. Of course, turning a report of misconduct over to the Justice Department these days doesn’t seem to be a very productive course of action anyway, so perhaps Sloan is on to something here.

You’ll recall that when the IG at the State Department said that Hillary Clinton’s long time confidant Huma Abedin should be prosecuted for embezzlement, the Justice Department demurred, finding the idea of embezzlement by anyone that highly placed not worth the time and effort required for a messy and embarrassing trial. The same thing happened to the findings of the IG for the IRS when it came to Lois Lerner. When that case was unceremoniously tossed, our new Attorney General said that she’s not inclined to go sticking her beak into the “prosecutorial discretion” of those immediately responsible. Of course, if a cop shoots a suspect in a strongarm robbery in a small town hundreds of miles away from the nation’s capital, the Attorney General is off like a cannon shot, sending investigators to pick apart the entire department. But a direct recommendation of prosecution from one of her own Inspectors General in another cabinet department? Don’t bother us with such nonsense.

This is the state of affairs under the Obama administration in its final days and months. Both Sloan Gibson and Bob McDonald should be fired at this point but don’t expect to see that happen. As we’ve demonstrated here repeated, it’s essentially impossible to fire anyone in the federal government either because of the strength of the unions or favoritism from above. And now we’ve fairly well established that you can’t even prosecute them if they are found to very likely be breaking the law. There is no accountability and there likely won’t be until we get somebody in charge with a new broom and the spine to actually wish to use it.