On Friday morning, an anonymous group of staffers at the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog called for President Joe Biden to fire their boss, Inspector General Joseph Cuffari.
“[T]he highest priorities of an inspector general are integrity and independence,” the staffers wrote in a letter published by the Project of Government Oversight (POGO). “IG Cuffari and his inner circle of senior leaders have fallen short in these areas time and time again.”
The letter was signed by “Concerned DHS OIG employees representing every program office at every grade level (for fear of retaliation, we cannot identify ourselves).”
Cuffari has gotten wrapped up in quite a few scandals since he was appointed to the role by former President Donald Trump in 2019. Most recently, he’s been embroiled in an ongoing scandal related to the attack on the Capitol complex on January 6th. After a former White House aide testified before the House select committee investigating the attack that Trump had had an altercation with the Secret Service on Jan. 6, Congress renewed its year-old inquiry for written correspondence from employees across several agencies, including the DHS.
There were other controversies. Earlier this year, Cuffari garnered unfavorable attention when watchdog groups revealed that he had not published a federal watchdog report finding that over 10,000 DHS employees said they’d experienced sexual harassment or misconduct. After the unpublished reports were revealed, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the drafts “underscore the need for immediate action.”
Cuffari also became the target of an investigation by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) after being accused of retaliating against a former top agency official.
Various good government and watchdog groups, including POGO, have repeatedly called for Biden to remove Cuffari.
In the letter released Friday, the anonymous staffers add a few more complaints to the pile. They allege that Cuffari refused to “move forward with important proposed work without reason,” delayed the release of audits, inspections and investigations for prolonged periods of time, and edited reports to remove “key findings,” among other things.
They also lambast the inspector general for throwing his employees under the bus in a letter to Congress explaining why he never published the internal review that contained allegations of sexual misconduct. Cuffari “refused to take responsibility for his own actions and instead undermined his own career staff,” they write.
The letter “served as a warning to all employees of what would happen if they push back against or question the IG and his team,” the staffers said. “This letter deeply impacted his entire workforce and fully demonstrated his inability to be a servant leader.”
Instead, they write, the letter simply reinforced that “he cares about no one but himself and his survival.”
The staffers close the letter by requesting that Biden ensure that Cuffari and his leadership team, including Chief of Staff Kristen Fredericks, step aside from their positions.
“You are the only one who can help us before DHS OIG are forever damaged by IG Cuffari,” they write. “We need help.”