Education Department CIO under fire for improper business dealings

Share

Written by
Danny-Harris
Danny Harris is the chief information officer for the Department of Education.

The chief information officer for the Department of Education profited from having employees install home theater equipment and detail cars for side business ventures, department investigators found.

The investigators confirmed CIO Danny Harris, who started at the agency as an intern in 1985 and moved up the ranks, did not report $10,000 in income on top of his government salary, on his tax form. He also made a $4,000 loan to one of his subordinates, used his work email to conduct outside business and helped a relative secure a job in the department, according to investigators.

The details of questionable conduct are expected to come out Tuesday during a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing. EdScoop obtained copies of advanced testimonies from Harris, who admitted to the findings, along with those of investigators from the Office of the Inspector General, and acting Education Secretary John King, who dealt with Harris when he was a deputy secretary.

Harris was the subject of a previous hearing in November, when he testified about security loopholes and a disturbing number of data breaches within the agency.

The department’s security systems have “become a monster,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the committee, said at the time. “We don’t know who’s in there, we don’t know what they’re doing.”

Now it appears the upcoming hearing will focus on Harris’ conduct in office. The inspector general started probing him for actions in and before 2013, and substantiated enough claims to report him to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The attorney’s office declined to prosecute.

In his testimony, Harris said that “many staff members at the department were aware” of his side business ventures, which he called “hobbies,” and that two employees “were interested in learning more about these activities.”

“I do my best to work with my staff to help them gain new skills,” he said. “I came to realize that by including them in these activities, for which they were compensated, I used poor judgment.”
Harris said he has pulled the plug on his enterprises. His home theater business didn’t turn up in a Google search.

Investigators and King said Harris got counseling in 2013.

In his prepared remarks, King said that a separate Office of General Counsel report “confirmed not only OGC’s conclusion that the information did not support a conclusion that Dr. Harris violated any law, regulation, or standard of ethical conduct, but also that the counseling undertaken … seemed to have been effective and appropriate.”

But, he added, “I nonetheless viewed some of the actions by Dr. Harris that were detailed through the investigation to reflect a serious lack of judgement.”

OIG has conducted 10 investigations since 2010 involving senior Education Department officials, including Harris.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com, and follow her on Twitter@clestchand@edscoop_news.

-In this Story-

Department of Education, Departments
TwitterFacebookLinkedInRedditGoogle Gmail