By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 3, 2009
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration paid more than half a million dollars to a consultant from the home state of the agency's director without keeping any "work products" produced by the consultant, an act that violated the terms of a government contract, federal laws and regulations, and Department of Labor policies, according to an audit by the department's Office of Inspector General.
The hiring and pay decisions are the subject of a continuing special investigation, but the audit report said that because of "violations and irregularities," the government should immediately demand the return of $681,379 paid to the consultant, Randy Kimlin. He is a former chemical company executive who agency officials say played a large role in the day-to-day operations of the agency under then-Director Edwin G. Foulke Jr., an appointee of President George W. Bush.
The improperly paid sum represents a total of $572,946 billed for Kimlin's labor over a period of 27 months ending in mid-2008 and an additional $108,434 in compensation for his commuting costs from South Carolina, the report said.
His work was illegally authorized without competition or proper authority from the Labor Department, the audit added. "There is potential criminal activity related to the audit findings," said Jeffrey Lagda, a spokesman for the inspector general.
Kimlin's compensation, first disclosed by The Washington Post on Dec. 29, was higher than that received by Vice President Richard B. Cheney, any member of Congress or Foulke during that period. OSHA officials told the auditors that Foulke arranged for Kimlin's hiring and that they relied on Foulke to monitor his work.
Kimlin did not respond to a request for comment left with his wife. Foulke, who now works in the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips, a law firm representing companies accused of workplace safety violations, said through a colleague that he had no comment because he has not seen the report.
In an official response to the audit, acting OSHA Administrator Donald G. Shalhoub said that the agency is "disappointed in the overall findings" and that OSHA officials had described "multiple examples of activity" undertaken by Kimlin, including his organization of leadership conferences and his advice to Foulke about "succession planning" and the agency's mission statement.