DHS employees use anonymous letter to ask for removal of inspector general

A group of employees that work for DHS inspector general Joseph Cuffari have asked in an anonymous letter for President Joe Biden to remove him from the position, saying that they no longer think the “ship will right itself.”

The letter was shared by the Project on Government Oversight and was signed by “concerned DHS OIG employees representing every program office at every grade level” who said that “for fear of retaliation, we cannot identify ourselves.”

“Providing effective oversight of the newest and third largest Cabinet department is difficult enough, it should not be made more difficult by our own leadership,” the employees wrote.

The letter further read:

We need help. We can no longer be silent when faced with continuous mismanagement of DHS OIG at its highest levels. IG Cuffari has made clear that he wishes to remain in his position, even in the face of prolonged, deserved criticism in the media, from Congress, from other oversight entities and from his own staff. A true leader would recognize the effect of his actions on his workforce and understand the right thing to do would be to step aside. However, IG Cuffari is not a true leader. He instead acts to weaken and undercut his career staff at every step.

Cuffari under fire

Cuffari has also been under scrutiny from several congressional panels, who have requested he remove himself from various investigations after he failed to inform Congress about the “erasure” of Secret Service text messages on January 6.

Cuffari was appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2019 after working as a military issues advisor for Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R).

His tenure has been filled with accusations of questionable actions, including removing information from reports and refusing to investigate allegations of sexual harassment or the incident in which President Donald Trump was accused of clearing protesters from Lafayette Park in order to take a photo op with a bible there.

The letter states that Cuffari has “refus[ed] to move forward with important proposed work without reason,” made it “so that only he and his inner circle assign most reviews,” “interfering with staff efforts to gather information,” and “significantly editing reports to remove key findings, which weakens the impact of the reports.”

The response

A statement from Cuffari’s office claimed that he has had higher “employee engagement” during his tenure and that staff feedback at in-person meetings has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“As he promised during his confirmation process and hearing, Dr. Cuffari has transformed DHS OIG to a model workplace,” the statement read.

But his response to congressional committees that have asked him to step aside from investigations was posted publicly to all DHS OIG  employees, something that is looked at as a warning to staffers about coming forward with complaints.

Calling his actions “damaging” and “embarrassing,” the employees told Biden, “You are the only one who can help us before DHS OIG are forever damaged by IG Cuffari.”

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