By J. Nicholas Hoover
August 21, 2009
Two reports issued by the inspector general of the Department of
Veterans Affairs point to a range of misconduct in the agency's IT
department in recent years, including abuse of authority, prohibited
hiring practices, and favors gained as a result of a personal
relationship involving the agency's former CIO and an IT security
official reporting to him.
Following an internal investigation, the inspector general said it
substantiated that Katherine Adair Martinez, the agency's deputy
assistant secretary for information protection and risk management,
engaged in prohibited personnel practices when she influenced a VA
contractor to hire a personal acquaintance and again later when that
acquaintance was hired by the VA. Martinez was also found to have taken
advantage of "an inappropriate personal relationship" with Howard, her
supervisor, to relocate her office to Florida. Howard left the VA in
January 2009; Martinez still works there.
According to one of the inspector general's reports, following Martinez'
relocation to Florida in July 2008, the VA spent $37,000 on Martinez'
frequent trips to and from Washington, ostensibly for job-related tasks.
However, the inspector general determined that those tasks could have
been accomplished from Florida, and that Martinez and Howard continued
their personal relationship during that time.
According to the report, Martinez misused her position for the personal
gain of Laura Nash, a friend who was hired for an identity security
project despite little related experience. Nash was hired by contractor
Engineering Systems Solutions in September 2006 as the project lead on a
five-year, multi-million dollar contract to help the VA protect
personally identifiable information, despite having taken only one
computer class in college.
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