Another DHS Inspector General in Trouble

Spooky parallels between Edwards (then) and Cuffari (now)

By David North on August 18, 2023

The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security is in trouble, yet again; there are almost eerie parallels between the problems of the current incumbent, Ralph Cuffari, and those of former acting IG, Charles Edwards, a few years ago.

Neither case seems to stress immigration policy; both relate to allegations of misuse of taxpayer money; both relate to personnel policies related to a (different) woman; both incumbents had connections with extremely marginal (but different) universities; both were veteran civil servants; and in each case Alejandro Mayorkas was the major official in the background, in the first case as the director of USCIS and in this one as the DHS secretary.

Among Cuffari’s problems, which also include losing some January 6 voice messages, is a feud with the deputy inspector general he inherited when he was named IG by then-President Trump in 2019. The deputy's name is Jennifer Costello and she apparently wanted the top job. He tried to sideline her by appointing her to a position involving global disasters, which she declined on the grounds that she was not qualified for it.

Ultimately, he fired her and retained the prestigious WilmerHale law firm in D.C. to investigate her, at the cost of $1.4 million, but the investigation proved nothing. She then sued the government and settled the whistle-blower dispute for a thumping $1.17 million, which broke indoor records for its size. All this has been reported at some length in various news accounts (see here and here).

Cuffari has also — in an unusual move — sued an organization I had never heard of before, the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, over what his lawyers termed were “baseless inquiries into his conduct”.

Meanwhile, and not mentioned by the media so far, is the matter of the source of his PhD. Wikipedia lists it as from Pacific Coast University in 2002. It was an “on-line, for-profit institution which was not accredited at the time his degree was awarded”.

In the case of Acting IG Edwards, the woman in the case was his wife, who is (as he is) of Indian ancestry. She was employed in the IG’s office at the time, and he assigned her to India for a year, at government expense, at the time of a family crisis there. This was one of several controversies hitting Edwards at a time when he was feuding with Mayorkas, then director of USCIS during the Obama administration.

Subsequently, Edwards moved to a different job in DHS, then quit that job and went to work for a consulting firm, which got into trouble for the misuse of federal property. This led to a guilty plea in federal court; he is currently awaiting sentencing.

Edwards, as we reported several years ago, was “seeking a PhD in information management from an academic program at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, which had such a low rating in the U.S. News and World Report survey of educational institutions that the score was not published”.

Edwards was also accused of using departmental funds to fly him to and from PhD classes and causing at least one subordinate, on government time, to do some of his homework for him.