Opinion

Now that’s a scolding! Gowdy blasts EPA official for lack of due diligence

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy lit into a senior Environmental Protection Agency official for neglecting to investigate more than a dozen complaints of sexual misconduct made by female agency employees directed against another EPA official.

The South Carolina Republican directed his fireworks at EPA deputy chief of staff John Reeder during Thursday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

An EPA inspector general’s report documented the allegations made against Peter Jutro, the former acting associate administrator for the EPA’s Office of Homeland Security.

Gowdy’s questioning repeatedly returned to one theme — that Reeder was unaware of the problems within his agency because he didn’t make the minimal due diligence effort to ask.

“Mr. Reeder, were you aware of an allegation if inappropriate and unwanted sexual discussion at an EPA happy hour?” Gowdy asks.

“Do you know why you weren’t aware of that?” the congressman asked when Reeder indicates the negative.

“Because you didn’t bother to ask Mr. Jutro’s supervisor when you were doing his background check,” Gowdy said. “He knew about it, but you didn’t bother to ask him.”

Gowdy went through several other sexual harassment allegations before Reeder changed his response to “It wasn’t told to me.”

Gowdy pounced.

“No, no, no!” he corrected Reeder. “You weren’t told? You didn’t ask!”

Contrary to Reeder’s testimony, Patrick Sullivan from the inspector general’s office indicated Reeder was aware of at least several instances of Jutro’s inappropriate behavior.

Gowdy also established that Reeder would have been made aware of Jutro’s other reported indiscretions had he bothered to simply ask his immediate supervisor.

“We had interviewed his [Jutro’s] immediate supervisor,” Sullivan confirmed. “That supervisor told us ‘I would absolutely have shared that information with Mr. Reeder,’ but he was never contacted.”

Reeder subsequently vetted Jutro for an advancement in position. He was later allowed to retire before he could be fired or demoted.

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