Travel of federal law enforcement training chief under scrutiny

The chairman of a congressional oversight committee has demanded an explanation for years of international travel by the retiring head of the Federal Law Enforcement Center.

A letter sent Wednesday to the secretary of Homeland Security raised questions about FLETC director Connie Patrick’s plan to fly to Botswana just before she is to leave the agency.

Patrick’s spokeswoman said Thursday she had already cancelled her trip and Dominick Braccio, FLETC’s director of regional and international travel, would go instead to the graduation at that country’s International Law Enforcement Academy in early June.

“This is part of his program anyway,” spokeswoman Elisha Gregory said of Braccio.

Gregory said Patrick's change in plans was not prompted by Wednesday's letter from U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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Patrick announced a week ago that she was retiring on June 30 from the post she has held for 15 years. That news came just 3 1/2 weeks after Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, demanded information from the inspector general about the status of its investigation into the center along the Georgia coast.

Chaffetz’s letter noted that Patrick announced her retirement “amid an ongoing investigation” by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General of “allegations of wasteful spending, noncompliance with procedures, improper travel and prohibited personnel practices.

“Against this backdrop, we learned director Patrick plans to attend a training program at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone, Botswana, within weeks of her schedule retirement,” Chaffetz wrote. “Because allegations of wasteful and improper travel are part of DHS OIG’s current investigation, a pre-retirement trip to Botswana on the taxpayer’s dime by this particular official requires a degree of scrutiny, at the very least.”

Chaffetz has asked for a briefing by May 17 that includes information about the “costs and benefits associated with director Patrick’s prior international travel for the last 10 years.”

The center at Glynco Naval Air Station near Brunswick trains officers and agents from more than 90 law enforcement agencies. Inspectors general, including those for the Department of Homeland Security, are among the law enforcement officers who are trained there in how to conduct investigations and procedures.

In past years, there have been complaints that the Office of the Inspector General has been too cozy with the Department of Homeland Security and has gone easy on those agencies when called to investigate allegations of waste and corruption.

That is a concern some whistle-blowers have expressed to the two committees.

“We are aware of several allegations of misconduct involving senior leadership at FLETC’s headquarters facility in Glynco, Georgia,” Chaffetz and Johnson wrote in their April 4 letter.