IG disciplinary arm admits taking 18 months to finish Wertheimer probe, despite 2019 findings
The disciplinary panel for inspectors general has acknowledged it took 18 months, which ended in April, to complete a probe that found in 2019 the chief watchdog at the Federal Housing Finance Agency had retaliated against whistleblowers and created an abusive work environment.
The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s (CIGIE) Integrity Committee began reviewing complaints into then-Federal Housing Finance Agency Inspector General Laura Wertheimer in 2017, which the Empower Oversight whistleblower group learned was designated as case no. 912.
Complaints mentioned a hostile workplace where employees were belittled for their physical attributes and their work performance.
Even though CIGIE’s final 29-page report justifying Wertheimer’s removal was sent to President Joe Biden in April and is available online, and she resigned from her post this summer, the agency told Just the News that it couldn’t confirm that case no. 912 involved Wertheimer.
CIGIE didn’t update Congress on the investigation from October 2019 through December 2020, which the agency confirmed was during its post-investigative review of the case. The prior mention of case no. 912 to Congress was in September 2019, when the Integrity Committee said it needed “time to review the draft report of investigation prior to sending it to the subjects for comment.” The next mention of the case was January 2021, when it was “in post-investigation review by the respondent” and the committee.
According to CIGIE, this review entails “reviewing the report of investigation; providing the subject(s) the opportunity to review and respond to the report; reviewing any such subject responses; determining what recommendations, if any, are warranted based on the completed report and any subject responses; and preparing or gathering any additional materials the IC deems necessary to support its recommendations and address subject responses.
“During much of the time case 912 was undergoing this post-investigative review, CIGIE’s practice was not to include cases undergoing such post-investigative review processes in the IC’s monthly reports to Congress. To enhance the transparency of its processes, in January 2021 the IC changed this policy to include cases in post-investigative review in its monthly updates to Congress. As a result, case 912’s post-investigative status began to be reported in the January 2021 letter.”
The final report found that Wertheimer “abused her authority” and “showed a disdain and resistance towards Congressional and [Integrity Committee] oversight by fostering a culture of witness intimidation through a pattern of staff abuse and fear of retaliation,” in addition to “wrongfully refus[ing] to cooperate with the [Integrity Committee’s] investigation by denying investigators full access” to her office’s documents and personnel.