Former Head of Insular Affairs Accused of Sexual Improprieties and Giving Grants to Friends

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General has released a report (pdf) accusing the former assistant secretary of Insular Affairs of directing federal grants to friends, of sexually harassing staffers and forcing his subordinates to perform personal chores for him, and of discriminating against older employees, particularly men.

 

The Office of Insular Affairs OIA oversees federal administration of the United States possessions of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

 

The report says Anthony Babauta directed two grants totaling $451,200 to the University of Guam despite recommendations from his staff and grant specialists. The university subsequently hired a friend of Babauta’s as project coordinator. That friend spent more than $30,000 of grant money on personal expenses, the report said. In 2013, the OIA terminated the grants and the unspent money, $378,818, was returned.

 

Babauta in a statement last week acknowledged “the appearance of conflicts” but said his actions were “legitimate endeavors to improve the quality of life for areas under my responsibility.”

 

The report also said Babauta met with a girlfriend on trips he took for government business, including a trip to the Virgin Islands.

 

Babauta’s staffers accused the assistant secretary of harassing them. One female staffer said that Babauta said she had a “hot ass,” after he sat in her chair. Another employee said Babauta commented on one staffer’s high-heel shoes, saying: “I’ve always thought that a woman should have a pair of whore shoes to wear.” The employee later clarified the statement to “hooker shoes.” Babauta also suggested to a female employee that she wear high-heel shoes.

 

Other findings were that Babauta pressured an employee to allow him to live rent-free in a cottage on the employee’s property, that he had an underling prepare a PowerPoint presentation for his daughter’s homework and that he had an employee pick up his girlfriend at the airport.

 

OIA employees also told investigators that Babouta felt uncomfortable with older staffers, asking them when they would quit, and, upon his arrival, asking an employee, “how do I get rid of the old people?”

 

Babauta was placed on administrative leave in November 2012 and resigned the following January. The Inspector General sent the report to the U.S. Attorney’s office for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, but the office declined to prosecute.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Report: Ex-Interior Department Official Steered Federal Awards To Friends (by Josh Hicks, Washington Post)

Investigative Report of Anthony Babauta (Office of Inspector General, Department of the Interior) (pdf)

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