January 31, 2019

Warren Questions White House on "Sudden Replacement" of Department of Education Acting Inspector General

Senator Concerned Decision Jeopardizes the Watchdog Office's Independence and Effectiveness

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent an oversight letter to President Trump expressing concern about why the Education Department's Acting Inspector General Sandra Bruce was "suddenly replaced" less than two months into her tenure, and echoing concerns the Senator has learned from Department officials that naming a senior agency official to a dual role as the Acting Inspector General "will do grave damage to the independence and effectiveness of the OIG."

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) -- as an independent and nonpartisan entity -- serves a critical oversight role monitoring and evaluating the Department's operations and programs and preventing waste, fraud, and abuse.  According to a report in Politico, which has since been confirmed by Department officials, Ms. Bruce was told on January 30, 2019, that she will be replaced as Acting Inspector General by Philip Rosenfelt, the Department's deputy general counsel.  According to Department officials, Mr. Rosenfelt appears to also still be serving as deputy general counsel.

In her letter to President Trump, Senator Warren expressed concern with the timing of Ms. Bruce's removal and its potential to impact ongoing investigations and audits into several important department actions. In November 2018, for example, the OIG announced its review of discrimination complaints the Department dismissed under Secretary DeVos.

"The decision to replace Ms. Bruce without explanation, and with a senior agency official who appears to be still serving in that capacity, is troubling because it is vital that the work of the OIG remain uninterrupted and that the IG operate independently from the White House and from Department leadership," wrote Senator Warren. "I urge you to immediately address this matter and to ensure that the Office of Inspector General is able to continue operating in an effective and independent fashion."

The Senator also noted in her letter that the President has yet to nominate a permanent inspector general since Katherine Tighe retired in November 2018.  Senator Warren urged the President to do so as soon as possible.

Senator Warren's letter follows her introduction of the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, a comprehensive bill that, among other ambitious measures, would insulate agency inspectors general from political influence and meddling.