Back in the day, if you needed to relocate for a new job, you could elicit the aid of a few strapping young men for little more than the cost of a pizza and a six-pack of beer. Add the cost of a rental truck, and you could probably recoup your expenses after the first paycheck.
Today, the same could probably happen, unless you’re a newly hired Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director of Finance, in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina. As detailed in a November 30th investigative report by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the OIG hotline received an anonymous call stating a new EPA Director in the RTP Finance Center requested a $250,000 reimbursement of relocation costs. The complainant alleged that on the new Director’s behalf, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) intended to award the funds.
The subsequent investigation found that the new Director had inquired about relocation reimbursement during the interview process and was informed the hiring package did not include such a benefit. However, shortly after she accepted the position, she approached the OCFO, again asking for relocation reimbursement. Thus began the tale of the North Carolina EPA Financial Director’s money chase.
Facts at a glance
EPA posts job announcement for Director of Finance.
|02/05/2015||The subject employee agrees to accept job with no relocation reimbursement per HR denial citing agency rules.|
|02/25/2015||OCFO contacts HR after being asked by subject employee to revisit the issue as a relocation “incentive” as opposed to relocation “reimbursement.”|
|03/09/2015||OCFO submitted request for a relocation incentive to HR for $15,000 representing estimated moving and storage costs. Again, the request denied.|
|04/02/2015||HR denied two subsequent revised requests from the OCFO for the subject employee’s relocation incentive.|
|04/05/2015||Subject employee begins working as New Director with no reimbursement or incentive for relocation.|
|04/21/2015||Hotline call to OIG regarding OCGO’s intent to give new Director a total of $250,000 compensation for relocation.|
|05/13/2015||OCFO awarded new Director $4,500 bonus (6 weeks after start)|
|06/25/2015||OCFO awarded another $4,500 bonus (12 weeks after start)|
|07/07/2015||The OIG began its audit and investigation as a result of the hotline call. During the audit, OIG learned another bonus was forthcoming. That order was withdrawn as a result of the notice of the investigation.|
The OIG concluded its financial audit on September 22, 2015, noting in the report the new Director never received the proposed $250,000 relocation reimbursement. However, the two $4,500 bonuses within 3-months of her start date were unprecedented and represented approximately 25 percent of her salary for the 3-months covering the time period of her employment.
Upon conclusion of the investigation, the OIG recommended the EPA’s Deputy Administrator revisit the awards made to the new Director, RTP Finance Center, to determine whether the awards are reasonable and properly justified and, if needed, take appropriate action. In addition, for future awards, EPA should establish and require a proper level of management review for multiple awards that total in excess of $5,000 during a fiscal year to ensure that awards are reasonable and justified in comparison to other awards.