Congressional leaders react to government contract awarded to federal official's next-door neighbor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Congressional leaders are already reacting to a 41 Action News investigation about a government contract awarded a high-ranking federal official's next-door neighbor.

On Tuesday, 41 Action News reported on the controversy surrounding a Homeland Security official and the quarter-million dollar deal for security cameras that have never been used by the agency.

David Olson, is regional director of the Federal Protective Service, the branch of Homeland Security in charge of keeping all federal buildings safe.

On Wednesday, a congressional leader who oversees the federal agency weighed in on the report.

"This is another example of a Department of Homeland Security misstep," said Rep. Bennie Thompson , D-MS, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. "Failure to discipline people in leadership sends a message of preferential treatment that can contribute to low employee morale--an ongoing and persistent problem at DHS."

A whistleblower told 41 Action News the perceived lack of discipline for Olson had damaged employee morale.

"It's definitely a black eye for the agency. It's bad," the whistleblower said.

A DHS Inspector General investigation had concluded Olson "improperly influenced and facilitated the contract," while pointing out several violations of federal procurement rules.  The proposed punishment for Olson was 14 days. In a letter to President Obama regarding the controversy, an Office of Special Counsel report said the punishment seemed "overly lenient."

The union president representing FPS employees agreed, saying a low-level worker had received the same recommended discipline for smoking in a federal vehicle.

A senior staffer on the Homeland Security Committee told 41 Action News the actual punishment was negotiated down to a three-day suspension, deferred for two years. The staffer said she learned the development during a recent meeting with FPS Director Eric Patterson.

On Tuesday, Rep. Sam Graves , who chairs the House Small Business Committee, also reacted to the investigation.

"There is simply no room for waste, fraud and abuse in federal contracting programs," Graves said. "Tolerance of such behavior sends the wrong message to innovative, competitive small businesses that the system is rigged against them in favor of those with connections."

Graves added he is asking the Small Business Administration to look into potential violations of its rules in this case.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect on his Facebook page.

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