Report Summary

Title: Attorney Misconduct, Inadequate Supervision, and Mismanagement in the Office of General Counsel
Report Number: 18-06501-158 Download
Issue Date: 6/24/2020
City/State: Albany, NY
VA Office: Office of General Counsel (OGC)
Report Author: Office of Special Reviews
Report Type: Administrative Investigation
Release Type: Unrestricted

Following an investigation conducted in response to allegations made to the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) hotline, the Office of Special Reviews substantiated that an Office of General Counsel (OGC) attorney was using VA time and resources to work on matters related to his outside law practice. Moreover, the OIG determined that the attorney represented private clients in U.S. bankruptcy court in cases where the clients owed money to the federal government. This conduct implicated criminal conflict of interest laws, which prohibit federal government employees from representing third parties in cases where the United States is a party or has a direct and substantial interest.

The review team discovered that VA’s OGC received complaints about the attorney using VA time and resources to engage in his outside law practice as early as 2012. The OIG found that OGC's failure to appropriately supervise or meaningfully investigate the attorney's misconduct allowed it to continue. It was not until the OIG alerted OGC to this review’s preliminary findings that the OGC investigated the attorney, which ultimately led to his removal from federal employment in March 2020.

The OIG's seven recommendations to the Acting VA General Counsel addressed actions to be considered in light of the attorney's misconduct and OGC officials' prior failures to take prompt appropriate action. These included revision to the OGC's relevant guidance and how OGC identifies and advises its employees who have outside employment. OGC was also asked to consider whether it should implement a supplemental regulation requiring some employees to disclose and obtain prior approval before engaging in outside employment. VA’s OGC concurred with all recommendations.