by KUAM News

Guam - The Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General released the findings of its investigation into former Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta.

According to the report the investigation was launched into allegations that Babauta may have been directing OIA grants and contracts to friends. The OIG also received allegations that he mistreated his employees through discrimination and sexual harassment, misuses government equipment and personnel and took personal trips under the guise of government travel.

Investigators determined that Babauta directed two OIA grants to the University of Guam to support the Micronesian Center for a Sustainable Future (MCSF). The report stated “Both grants went to Babauta’s former employer,  a UOG senior official, and UOG subsequently hired Babauta’s friend as the MCSF project coordinator. Our investigation revealed that UOG allowed the MCSF project coordinator to expend $32,636.34 in grant funds on unallowable expenses, many of which were of personal benefit to the MCSF project coordinator. Interviews with current and former OIA employees support that Babauta made inappropriate comments to employees and conducted himself unprofessionally at times. Babauta had one OIA employee perform work outside the scope of his Government duties. We further found that Babauta resided at the guest house of one subordinate employee for several months without providing compensation. We did not find evidence that Babauta used Government travel for personal gain, but there were certain trips for Government business in which he appeared to benefit personally.”

The investigation report also described interactions with some female employees and interns in the OIA office .  One employee described an instance in which Babauta said she had a "hot ass".  Babauta explained that he would occasionally go into the female employee's office to discuss something and would end up using her computer. He said that on one occasion when he sat in her chair he told her "that's a warm ass that you had because the seat is warm".  When asked if he could have said something to the effect of "you have a hot ass" Babauta replied that he might have but he was only referring to the temperature of the seat in a joking way. This same employee aid Babauta sometimes made off color jokes, but they were typical jokes made by other male colleagues.

In another instance an intern who was interviewed described Babauta as a “shady guy” and that he often commented on her clothes and told her she was wearing sexy shoes. The intern described an instance in which he invited her into his office and offered her a drink from a bottle of liquor. Babauta however denied that he offered the intern a drink while at work but admitted that he kept a bottle of Johnny Walker scotch in his office for two weeks after before a trip before taking it home. Babauta said he didn’t drink any of it while in the office.

Babauta meanwhile issued the following statement in response to the OIG report:

“I have reviewed the final investigation report conducted by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General and I am satisfied it reaffirms that my official acts and decisions as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas were legitimate endeavors to improve the quality of life for areas under my responsibility.  I acknowledge that there are some appearances of conflicts, but I trusted then, as I do now, that my personal relationships with island leaders had no bearing in how I made a final decision.  I consider those of whom I interacted with, and were subjects of this investigation, to be outstanding leaders and faithful public servants.  No one worked to betray the public’s trust.  DOI’s report also commented on personal matters.  I am embarrassed because of it and publicly apologize to my family. It has been nearly a year and a half since I resigned my office.  I continue to value the honor and privilege of having served in my capacity and to have worked in changing the direction of policy and improving relationships between the Federal government and the U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States. I am a strong believer in the initiatives that I put forth to empower island constituencies.  I feel that my agenda which included implementing renewable energy, building capacity of non-profit organizations, encouraging economic development, providing decision-makers and the public with information about their economies and the state of their public schools, building capacity and supporting education, hospitals, first responders, local initiatives to improve accountability, and promoting island cultures, was worthwhile.  I am grateful for the support that many have expressed to me for my term in office and I am happy that this final report brings closure to my tenure.  I will continue working towards improving our islands and look forward to opportunities to return to public service.”