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Homeland Security watchdog resigns under ethics cloud, gets new job

 

The chief watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security has stepped down from his post under a gathering cloud of allegations about his own conduct -- and already has accepted another position in the department he used to oversee. 

Charles Edwards, who served in the role of acting and deputy inspector general for the sprawling department, resigned days before he was set to testify in the Senate. 

The IG office confirmed the departure in a brief statement to FoxNews.com, adding that his assistant will take his place in the interim. 

"Mr. Edwards resigned. Mr. Carlton Mann is the Acting IG. We have no additional information at this time," the statement said. 

A DHS official said Edwards "formally requested a voluntary reassignment" last week. "In line with existing protocols and procedures, that request for a voluntary reassignment was processed, and based on the employee's experience and technical background he has been reassigned to a career position at [the science and technology division]," the official said. 

The abrupt move only adds to the questions surrounding Edwards' activities. He originally was scheduled to testify Thursday before a Senate committee. The title of the hearing was, "Alleged Misconduct by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security." 

That hearing has since been canceled. 

Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who were holding the hearing, released a statement saying: "Inspectors general are supposed to serve as the eyes and ears of taxpayers within our agencies, guarding against waste, fraud, and abuse of power, and we expect them to abide by the same high standards of behavior they apply to agency officials. We hope that Mr. Edwards' departure will pave the way for a new level of accountability and transparency within the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, and we plan to continue rigorous oversight to achieve that goal." 

The litany of allegations against Edwards included claims that he bowed to political pressure and watered down his reports; abused agency personnel and resources; and retaliated against employees who questioned his conduct. 

The allegations gained widespread attention after McCaskill and Johnson sent a bombshell letter to Edwards in June cataloguing the alleged offenses. The letter claimed they had received allegations that information in his office's report on the Secret Service prostitution scandal was "intentionally changed and withheld." The report pertained to the embarrassing incident in Colombia where Secret Service officials were caught with prostitutes while on assignment for a presidential visit. 

Further, the letter aired allegations that he violated "anti-nepotism laws" to employ his wife, misused official funds to travel to Florida to attend Ph.D. classes and used his own staff to work on school assignments.   

Conservative watchdog group Cause of Action released additional documents in July pertaining to the allegations. The travel records showed several visits by Edwards to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the main campus for the university he was allegedly attending is housed 

At the time, Edwards' office called the allegations "baseless." 

The move by Edwards came as Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson was confirmed to be the next secretary of Homeland Security.