Better oversight is needed

A now-retired U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official named John C. Beale was at one time the agency’s highest-paid employee.

Beale is about to begin serving a 32-month prison sentence for defrauding taxpayers out of nearly $900,000. That represents the amount the EPA paid him for 2 1/2 years he took off from work during his 20-year career – by claiming he was on assignments for the CIA.

He was not, but for two decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations, Beale got away with the scheme.

Current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy knew of his claim to be working for the CIA for at least two years, but didn’t ask questions.

Of course, Beale’s scam raises questions about the honesty of his work in guiding federal climate change policy. Did he lie about that, too?

Just as troubling is the fact that for two decades, Beale waltzed in and out of his EPA office at will, in a scam most private-sector managers would have caught on to quickly.

Beale’s crime received little attention as journalists focused on battles between Democrats and Republicans. But Beale is an example of a nonpartisan problem – an arrogant, insufficiently policed bureaucracy.