Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to the Department of Commerce (DOC) questioning recent allegations that Peter Jiron, a former senior employee at the National Weather Service (NWS), set himself up for post-retirement consulting contracts while he was still employed by the agency.
“Mr. Jiron’s alleged improprieties may have violated numerous federal laws and regulations, including criminal statutes,” Chairman Smith wrote in his letter. “Specifically, the criminal conflict-of-interest statute prohibits federal employees from acting in their official capacity in matters that will affect their financial interests. If the allegations prove true, Mr. Jiron’s actions are troubling and raise questions about whether this kind of behavior still occurs at NWS.”
According to the DOC Inspector General, in 2009, one month before officially retiring from the NWS, Mr. Jiron negotiated the terms of his consultancy, drafted and edited the associated Statement of Work for the consultancy, drafted terms and conditions of his contract with NWS as a consultant, and eventually signed the consulting contract with the NWS in April 2010.
Part of Mr. Jiron’s consulting agreement included post-retirement housing expensed by the NWS totaling $50,000 in value. Mr. Jiron’s consulting contract lasted 21 months, costing the government $471,875.
“Most troubling is the fact that all of Mr. Jiron’s wrongdoing was conducted with the approval of his supervisor,” Chairman Smith wrote.
According to an internal investigation conducted by the NWS in 2012, Robert Byrd, the then-Chief Financial Officer at NWS, allowed tens of millions of dollars to be used to cover costs at the NWS that differed from Congress’ intended budgeting purposes. According to Mr. Byrd, this type of behavior is “just the way business is done” at the agency.
To better understand the extent of abuses and mismanagement at NWS, Chairman Smith requested all documents and communications related to Mr. Jiron’s employment as a consultant with the NWS and all communications between Mr. Jiron and Mr. Byrd.
The full letter can be found here.