Department of Justice (DOJ) officials won’t prosecute a National Park Service (NPS) executive who knowingly violated federal travel regulations by taking $17,000 worth of tax-funded vacations, according to a new Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Inspector General (IG) report.
NPS Regional Director Michael Caldwell told federal investigators he knew he was violating federal travel regulations with the “fraudulent and tainted” travel vouchers he used to extend work trips into personal vacations from 2011 to 2015, saying he deserved a suspension at minimum.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania subsequently declined to prosecute him, leaving any punishment up to NPS.
Caldwell, who earned $159,178 in 2015 as a career Senior Executive Service (SES) employee overseeing NPS’ Northeast region, told federal investigators that if everyone in the government worked the way he did, “we wouldn’t get anything done.”
NPS Chief of Public Affairs Tom Crosson said NPS has reassigned Caldwell to work as a special assistant to NPS’ deputy director while agency officials decide if and how to discipline him.
The report said “that during these trips he conducted personal travel at government expense, received per diem for meals and incidental expenses on days he did not work, and incurred additional expenses for hotel rooms and oversize rental vehicles so that personal guests could accompany him on trips” on at least eight occasions, the report said. “These expenses cost the government a total of $11,496.35.”
Caldwell also counted 88 hours of vacation time as working hours, bringing the total amount he took from taxpayers to $17,480.91, according to the IG.
The IG found Caldwell violated other federal regulations prohibiting soliciting or accepting gifts from a subordinate in August 2011 when he accepted vacation housing in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from an employee.
The DOJ frequently declines to prosecute IG referrals — including seemingly clear-cut cases of wrongdoing — with no explanation, as The Daily Caller News Foundation has previously reported.
The IG began investigating Caldwell in May 2016 after receiving complaints alleging he took vacations using NPS funds.