5 GAO employees indicted for stealing school lunches for their kids

The dollar amount involved in this scheme of employees of the General Accountability Office to steal school lunches for their children is miniscule; about $13,000. But there is a larger lesson that can be drawn from it; the sense of entitlement of government workers that gives them leave to abuse the public purse and steal from taxpayers.

Roll Call:

Five employees with the Government Accountability Office, and one GAO employee’s spouse, were indicted Tuesday for working to illegally obtain reduced-price lunches for their children.

The indictment resulted from the legislative branch agency’s own investigation into the school meals program, which found some of the GAO’s employees applied for the program and underreported their income to gain access to the reduced-price lunches. After the agency discovered the illegal activity, the GAO reported applications to the agency’s inspector general.

“There is no excuse for stealing funds intended to go to children whose parents cannot afford the school lunches,” Maryland’s Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said in a news release announcing the indictment. “Their actions are made even worse by the fact that some of them claimed to have not just low income, but no income at all, even though they were working full-time jobs at the GAO.”

The GAO, which notes on its website that it is often referred to as the “congressional watchdog,” investigates federal spending. GAO spokesman Chuck Young wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call that GAO employees were “both disappointed and surprised” to learn their colleagues were potentially committing fraud.

“We will now be monitoring the judicial process and then determine what personnel actions might be appropriate,” Young said. Young later noted all of the employees indicted are administrative support personnel.

According to the news release, between 2010 and 2014, the employees’ children received more than $13,000 in reduced-price lunches. The GAO employees named in the indictment include Lynette Mundey, an internal auditor and an outgoing member of the county’s board of education; Barbara Rowley; Jamilah Reid; Tracy Williams; Charlene Savoy; and James Pickney, whose wife is a GAO employee. Pickney allegedly failed to disclose his wife’s income, which rendered his family ineligible for the reduced lunch program.

Each employee was charged with two counts of welfare fraud, two counts of submitting a false application for public assistance and one count of a theft scheme, according to a copy of the indictment.

This incident speaks to the general lack of concern harbored by many bureaucrats regarding how taxpayer money is spent. Up and down government we see managers taking expensive trips for "conferences" to Hawaii and even overseas. Other employees game the system to receive perks and pay to which they are not entitled. The rot is systemic and results from a lack of competent management at the top.

In any large organization, you will find graft and corruption. But the culture in government seems to magnify and encourage corruption at all levels by fostering that sense of entitlement not found in the private sector.

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