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OIG: A Review Of Allegations Of Unauthorized Activity By An Executive Assistant To A Former NASA Administrator

Status Report From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2020

Full Report

This report summarizes a NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation into allegations that an Agency Executive Assistant improperly provided administrative support to a former Administrator for an extended period of time after his departure from NASA.

In late 2018, the OIG received an anonymous complaint alleging a former Executive Assistant in the Office of the Administrator provided administrative assistance to former Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. for a year and a half following his resignation on January 20, 2017. This report summarizes the OIG's investigation into those allegations, which included interviews of Bolden, the Executive Assistant ("the EA"), and other senior NASA officials, as well as an extensive review of electronic data and other records.

The OIG concluded that the EA inappropriately provided significant administrative assistance to Bolden to include managing his personal and business appointments, making travel arrangements, and coordinating special requests for almost 2 years, from his departure in January 2017 through December 2018. We further found that the EA's assistance helped facilitate the growth of Bolden's private consulting business and, as a result, Bolden was able to hire the EA as an employee upon her retirement from NASA in early 2019.

However, not all of the assistance the EA provided to Bolden following his departure was inappropriate. First, we found that the EA's Employee Performance Plan had been modified prior to Bolden's resignation to add a provision authorizing her to provide him with administrative assistance after his departure. While Bolden and the EA originally envisioned her support for him would be limited to the first 6 to 8 months following his departure for NASA- related commitments he made prior to his departure, that timeframe was not contained in her Performance Plan and both later disregarded those limits. Second, some of the assistance provided to Bolden by the EA and other NASA employees supported Bolden's speaking engagements in his role as an unpaid U.S. Science Envoy for Space with the U.S. Department of State from 2018 to 2019.

This report summarizes our investigation and findings and recommends that management take action to identify what, if any, administrative support to a former Administrator or other high- ranking executive would be appropriate upon their departure from the Agency and develop appropriate guidance.

Key Findings

1. In January 2017, immediately prior to his departure from NASA and in direct response to concerns about the lack of transition planning when the previous Administrator left NASA following the 2008 presidential election, Bolden added a third Critical Element to the EA's Employee Performance Plan. This new element explicitly authorized the EA to continue to provide administrative support to Bolden such as coordinating his appearance at certain speaking engagements and providing contact information to him and others following his resignation as NASA Administrator.

2. The intent of adding this element to the Performance Plan was to authorize the EA to provide administrative support to Bolden for speeches and activities he had already committed to at the time of his resignation which Bolden considered to be NASA-related. Bolden and the EA expected this support would continue for approximately 6 to 8 months after Bolden's resignation so that he could fulfill commitments he made as NASA Administrator. Both viewed these duties as a way of providing continuity of operations for the Agency.

3. The EA continued to provide administrative support to Bolden for a wide range of activities throughout 2017 and 2018, including after the confirmation of a new NASA

4. During this 2-year period, Bolden re-established his consulting business under a new name, The Bolden Consulting Group. He also made unpaid appearances, both in the United States and overseas, on behalf of NASA and the State Department.

5. The administrative assistance provided to Bolden by the EA was not offered to other former senior NASA employees, such as the most recently departed NASA Deputy Administrator, and directly assisted Bolden's private consulting activities.

6. Due to a lack of engaged supervision, the EA's support for Bolden's non-governmental activities went largely undetected during the 2-year period. In her OIG interview, the EA acknowledged that in addition to performing her regular NASA duties, she continued to provide administrative support to Bolden following his departure due to her deep respect for him. The EA was cautioned by NASA's Ethics Counsel in January 2018 about the nature of her support for Bolden and afterwards reduced but did not cease her support for him.

7. In his OIG interview, Bolden acknowledged that he received administrative support from the EA for non-governmental activities following his resignation from NASA. Bolden took full responsibility for his actions, offered to provide reimbursement for the services he had received, and recommended that in the future specific guidance be provided to departing senior executives as to what type of administrative support they could expect to receive, if any.


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