The job of the inspector general at the U.S. Postal Service is to root out waste, but the management practices of Inspector General Karla Corcoran have been wasteful and frequently just plain odd, a number of past and present employees, two U.S. senators and a citizen taxpayers' group say.
They note, for example, that, to promote teamwork, she conducted a number of exercises in which employees built sand castles, gingerbread houses and tents made of newspapers.
On other occasions they dressed up as the Village People or wore cat costumes.
Last year, as the Postal Service was projecting huge losses, the IG's office hosted a conference where Corcoran was suspended on a web of strings. Corcoran put the cost at $615,000. Whistle-blowers say it was close to $1 million.
"It's a waste of taxpayers' money but, most importantly, that's a million dollars that could be used by that agency to make sure that the billions of dollars that the Postal Service spends is going to be wisely spent," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Grassley is now investigating the IG. So is the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.
Corcoran's office says it has been doing its job, identifying $2.2 billion in savings by the Postal Service.
Critics say half of those savings were already planned. And whistle-blowers say there is no justification for many expenses by the inspector general.
"She paid her deputy IG $40,000 to relocate," said one, who did not want to be identified. "He was already living and working in the Washington area and she paid him to relocate."
Inspector General: ‘Nothing to Hide’
Corcoran declined to be interviewed, but said she has "nothing to hide."
Documents, however, indicate that between $50,000 and $150,000 paid by the IG's office to an outside law firm, supposedly for advice on audit standards, also paid for help on her personal matters, such as severance pay and her problems with whistle-blowers.
"We're absolutely outraged by her behavior and we would love for her to be replaced," said Leslie Paige of Citizens Against Government Waste. "We think it's time for her to go."
The group has written to the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service calling for her dismissal. So have Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
They accuse Corcoran of wasting millions of dollars, adding, "We believe that the evidence of her mismanagement is so compelling that the Board of Governors should fire her without delay."
The board has indicated that it expects to take up the allegations against Corcoran at its meeting in early June. The woman hired to protect public dollars is now trying to protect her job.