by Printus LeBlanc
The Holman Rule allows the House of Representatives to offer amendments to appropriations legislation that reduces the salary of a specific federal employee. The rule was created in 1876 but rescinded in 1983. The 115th Congress reinstated the rule hoping to trim the federal bureaucracy of bad actors. It looks like the perfect candidate for the Holman Rule has arrived.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) has introduced Amendment #40 to H.R. 5895, Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019. The amendment is asking to reduce the salary of the Administrator of the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), Mark Gabriel, to $1.
Since it is almost impossible to fire a government bureaucrat Congress is left with one option, the Holman Rule, and Mr. Gabriel has done more than enough to earn his $1 salary.
ABC15 Phoenix, Arizona conducted an investigation and found millions in fraudulent spending, with David Biscobing reporting, “Credit card statements and receipts obtained by ABC15 highlight the high-dollar and extremely questionable purchases: An employee bought $2,933 of ammunition even though WAPA employees don’t have government-issued guns… There were thousands of dollars spent on specialized weapons gear, including multiple $1,200 rifle scopes… Dozens of handwritten receipts – some for thousands of dollars, were submitted and approved… One employee bought himself a $14,000 ATV, Cloud said. Receipts show the employee spread the loan payments out over several months on his government credit card.”
Sounds a lot like 18 U.S.C. § 644 which prohibits persons who are not authorized depositaries of public money from knowingly receiving any such money or using, transferring, converting, appropriating or applying such money for any purpose not prescribed by law. Or in layman’s terms embezzlement.
Gabriel also allowed a hostile work environment to exist. WAPA’s chief of security, Keith Cloud, said, “the situation was harrowing due to a gun culture within the agency. As some employees began making threats and using intimidation tactics… administrators delayed protective measures and held almost no one accountable,” according to Dennis Wagner of the Arizona Republic.
To back up Cloud’s account, an independent consultant conducted a violence assessment in 2015 and found, “Multiple employees reported having been threatened directly or heard others being threatened regarding the current investigations… Several indicated they had not bothered to report the incidents for reasons of fear and/or the belief upper management would not act. Because of past failures to address these issues more seriously, it is very likely the incidents will increase in number and severity.”
All this was happening despite the Whistleblower Protection Act prohibiting retribution.
But it gets worse for WAPA. It is clear the management allowed a hostile work environment towards whistleblowers and wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on nonwork-related purchases, but Gabriel is blatantly obstructing Congress in its oversight role.
Obviously, an agency with the troubles WAPA has would draw the attention of Congress, particularly the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR). For years OGR has been trying to obtain the proper documents to investigate many of the claims made by employees. However, WAPA has fought tooth and nail with Congress over handing over documents.
Rep. Gosar compiled an extensive list of procedures taken by Congress to get this one agency in the southwestern portion of the U.S. to comply with Congressional oversight requests. The procedures include bipartisan threats of subpoena, amendments to appropriations, and legislation wholly designed to make WAPA transparent.
Rep. Gosar recently discussed his amendment stating, “Wasteful and fraudulent actions like those of Mark Gabriel are exactly what led to significant support for President Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp. On Gabriel’s watch, criminal activities occurred and millions of dollars were spent on fraudulent and improper transactions. The Western Area Power Administration has done nothing but slow-walk investigations, cover-up fraud and intimidate anyone who is bold enough to call it out. It’s time for the Department of Energy to clean house and show this Obama holdover the door. This common sense amendment seeks to hold this rogue bureaucrat accountable to the American people and the victims that have suffered under his tenure.”
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning agrees with Rep. Gosar stating, “Who elected Mark Gabriel? The fact is President Trump was elected to office, not Mr. Gabriel. This bureaucrat does not get to override the President simply because he does not like the policy. It is time for Congress to fulfill their basic responsibilities and start holding these out of control bureaucrats accountable when they refuse to follow the law.”
If Congress ever wants the Executive Branch to take its oversight role seriously, it must act. Clearly, Mr. Gabriel has committed multiple fireable offenses. Mismanagement of taxpayer funds, creating a hostile work environment, and ignoring orders from a superior official are all worthy termination offenses. It is appalling to the taxpayer Mr. Gabriel is earning a generous federal salary. Congress must pass Rep. Gosar’s Amendment and show the rest of the executive branch it has Article 1 power and is not afraid to use it. Who knows, maybe other agencies will stop obstructing Congressional investigations if they know Congress will use its powers.
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Printus LeBlanc is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.