Dept of Education Official Apologizes Over Undisclosed Side Businesses


According to investigators, the chief information officer for the Department of Education was found to have profited from a car-detailing and home theater installation business he ran after hours by employing lower employees from his federal agency.

The actions by Danny A. Harris, in addition to efforts made by him to find work within the department for a relative and a friendship with an agency vendor, are expected to be the topic of a hearing this week by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Panel chairman Jason Chaffetz said that these activities have damaged the agency.  “The morale in the office of the chief information officer is at an all-time low due to the dysfunctional environment Mr. Harris has cultivated,” he said.

Harris is also said to have not reported $10,000 in additional income from his side businesses on federal disclosure forms or to the Internal Revenue Service.

The inspection was launched by the agency’s inspector general in 2011 after several anonymous complaints were received, writes Ellen Nakashima for The Washington Post.

Findings of the investigation included the running of a home theater installation business and car-detailing operation by Harris, hourly wages being paid to two of his subordinates that actually did the work, and that orders for the work were received by Harris from other subordinates.  Harris was found to have received at least $10,000 from just the home theater installation business.

Investigators were told by Harris, who made an annual salary of $183,267 last year, that the additional income was not reported, a requirement of federal officials, and that it was not included in tax filings, reports Tami Abdollah for ABC News.

According to written testimony, Harris is expected to take responsibility for these actions, which have raised questions as to whether he favors those employees who work for him after hours or who paid him for such services.

“I fully understand and take responsibility for how some of my actions could allow questions to arise about my impartiality,” Harris is expected to say, according to his written testimony. “This is unacceptable. I have learned from this experience, however, and to eliminate any such questions, I have assured my supervisors at the Department, and I want to also state unequivocally today, that I have not engaged in any of the actions that raised questions since prior to the IG’s investigation. The actions I took showed that I used poor judgment and I deeply regret those actions.”

Investigators also discovered Harris had been using his federal email account to conduct business for his outside operations, which is a violation of his employment.  He was also found to have helped a relative obtain a position in the department in 2010, although the relative left in 2013.

Although he was on the panel that gave a contract to a company owned by one of his friends, investigators say his contributions did not affect the outcome and an improper contract was not awarded in that instance.

The case was referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia by the inspector general in 2015, who at that time had decided not to prosecute due to the availability of administrative remedies.