This week the Washington Post and Washington Examiner reported on laudable efforts by Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to have Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser removed.
Although the Ranking Member detailed a litany of abuses that took place on Zinser’s watch, the most disturbing was extensive documented retaliation against whistleblowers, as well as surveillance of at least half a dozen government employees.
Yesterday Ranking Member Johnson sent a letter to President Obama requesting for Zinser’s removal from his IG position. The letter stated –
I am convinced that in order to establish an effective and ethically sound office a wholesale change in the top leadership of the Commerce Office of Inspector General is critically needed. I call on you to remove Mr. Zinser from office immediately and to take such other steps as are necessary to appoint qualified senior leadership with high ethical principles to lead the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General. I stand ready to support you in efforts to rebuild that office, reviving a sense of public service and accountability in the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General
The congressional investigation further unearthed that during Zinser’s Senate confirmation to become Commerce IG, he withheld information pertaining to a whistleblower retaliation case that he was party to.
Under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, each OIG is required to have a Whistleblower Ombudsman in order to help IGs ferret out waste, fraud and abuse while also upholding whistleblower protections. This rampant abuse of authority by an agency IG underscores the need for greater accountability, independence, and a zero-tolerance whistleblower retaliation policy within all Offices of Inspectors General.
President Obama should exercise his authority and demonstrate leadership by heeding Congress’ call for the swift removal of Commerce IG Zinser.