A NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report has found that former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden had been improperly utilizing agency staff for several years after his resignation. Additionally, the report found that the former administrator had utilized agency staff to grow his own business.
The investigation into the former administrator’s actions was prompted by an anonymous complaint alleging Bolden had continued to utilize the Executive Assistant in the Office of the Administrator several years after his departure on January 20, 2017. The findings of this investigation were published on June 9 and although it admonished Bolden for his actions, it did not specifically outline any punitive action.
The report detailed that Bolden had utilized his former Executive Assistant (identified in the report as EA) to assist him with managing his diary, booking travel, and occasional IT support. This assistance had initially been offered to Bolden for up to 8 months after his departure for pre-resignation agency commitments. However, it was found that the former administrator had continued to receive assistance well beyond the scope agreed upon by NASA for more than two years.
Although some of the assistance Bolden received was found to be inappropriate, the report did indicate that it found no fault in the former administrator receiving support for ”unpaid appearances he made as a U.S. Science Envoy for Space.” However, most damningly, the report also found that he had received assistance with “paid speaking engagements during 2017 and 2018.”
The assistance that Bolden received during this time allowed him to grow his business to the point where he could afford to hire EA. The OIG found this to be “improper under both NASA policy and federal government ethics regulations.”
During an interview, EA told the OIG that she had continued to provide Bolden support out of “respect for an “esteemed NASA-national icon” and because she wanted to help.” Although Bolden initially denied receiving support from EA, the former administrator subsequently admitted receiving this support and that his “reliance on her assistance was inappropriate.”
In response to its findings, the OIG made two recommendations to NASA. The first recommended that the agency established protocols to clearly define what assistance former high-ranking employees can and cannot receive after their departure. Secondly, the report suggested “specific guidance” be given to departing high-ranking employees.