The Biden administration refused to say whether a top official overseeing nuclear waste policy continues receiving government pay after being charged with theft.
While the Department of Energy (DOE) has confirmed that Samuel Brinton, who was named deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition over the summer, was placed on leave, the agency has yet to say whether Brinton is still on its payroll. In October, Brinton was charged with stealing a suitcase worth $2,325 from a baggage carousel at the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport.
"Sam Brinton is on leave from DOE, and Dr. Kim Petry is performing the duties of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition," a DOE spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement earlier this week.
Fox News Digital contacted the DOE multiple times Thursday but did not receive a response about whether Brinton continued to receive a government paycheck despite the outstanding charges.
Brinton, who is also one of the federal government's first-ever officials to identify as nonbinary, allegedly took the luggage after traveling from Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16, according to a criminal complaint filed on Oct. 26 in Minnesota state court. Security camera footage of the incident reviewed by law enforcement showed Brinton taking the bag from carousel before removing its tag and hurrying away.
Weeks after the incident, Brinton confirmed having the bag when a police officer called to discuss the matter. However, the DOE official denied any wrongdoing.
"If I had taken the wrong bag, I am happy to return it, but I don’t have any clothes for another individual," Brinton told the officer. "That was my clothes when I opened the bag."
In a call two hours later, Brinton apologized to the officer for not being "completely honest" but said the bag was taken due to tiredness. Still, Brinton was seen traveling on at least two other trips to the airport using the bag.
Brinton was charged in October with felony theft of a movable property without consent and, as a result, faces a five-year imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or both. Brinton is slated to appear during a court hearing on Dec. 19 in relation to the case.
Brinton's lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Brinton had received attention in June after being appointed to the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy for being nonbinary. In addition to previous roles at nuclear waste storage firm Deep Isolation, the Bipartisan Policy Center and think tank Third Way, Brinton served in a senior role at the Trevor Project, a group that seeks to prevent suicide among LGBT youth.
"There’s been a lot of people who are quite upset that don’t think that I am quite as qualified as others," Brinton said in an interview with E&E News in October.
"I respond with multiple graduate degrees from MIT, a decade of working in nuclear policy and the strongest enthusiasm for working in nuclear waste out of anybody."