Watchdog asks EPA IG to investigate top official over Harvard ties

Goffman served as Harvard Law School's executive director of the environmental and energy law program before joining the administration

Updated: August 24, 2022 - 7:32pm

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Watchdog group Protect the Public's Trust (PPT) on Wednesday announced that it had filed a request to the Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking that he investigate a senior official's ties to his former employer, Harvard University.

Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) Joseph Goffman, who currently awaits Senate confirmation to a higher post in the office, maintained an inappropriately close relationship with the school, PPT alleges. Goffman served as Harvard Law School's executive director of the environmental and energy law program before joining the administration.

PPT previously filed a FOIA request seeking documents and communications pertaining to Goffman's interactions with the school. The group, in announcing the investigation request, highlighted several seemingly unethical exchanges between Goffman and Harvard personnel. In one such instance, Goffman placed a Harvard professor in contact with EPA officials.

"The unmistakable implication of this communication was that they were expected to assist the professor and student at Mr. Goffman’s former employer in gaining access to information at EPA," PPT asserted.

“It’s disappointing that someone with such extensive experience working for an agency, and with a legal background to boot, appears to exhibit such a lax attitude toward his ethics obligations, despite the best efforts of career ethics officials to keep everyone on track,” PPT Director Michael Chamberlain said in a press release.

“If you’re looking for an advantage over competitors by obtaining information about how an agency operates or to have the ability to gain an audience of agency officials to promote your policy ideas, working at Joe Goffman’s former employer and having his email address sure seems to help," he continued. "This is hardly behavior befitting a member of the leadership of an administration touting itself as the most ethical in history.”

The group also noted that Goffman previously admitted to violating a recusal agreement and asked that the IG seek to answer a string of questions related to his interactions with the university.

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