2 Investigates: Government workers on paid administrative leave for years

By: Justin Gray - Cox Washington

Updated:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Government workers are getting put on administrative leave for years, and still getting paid. 

It's costing taxpayers millions of dollars, and it's all legal.

Veteran’s Administration employee Marshon Johnson said she was put on paid leave for nine months, with no explanation.

"I was given a box, I packed up my office and I was escorted out," Johnson said.

The government finally allowed the IT supervisor to go back to work in March 2014, but moved her to an out-of-state detail in Florida.

“The plug got pulled and the question is why?" Johnson asked.

It's a question hundreds of federal workers are asking themselves.

Channel 2's Justin Gray learned many are put on administrative leave for months, and sometimes years.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is investigating.

"You're talking about not just tens of millions of dollars, but hundreds of millions of dollars that are being wasted," Grassley said.

The senator found just within the Department of Homeland Security, 87 workers have been on paid leave for more than a year. He also uncovered a Border Patrol agent paid more than $340,000 while off the job for 6,000 hours. Finally, he learned about an ICE supervisor paid nearly $400,000 for not working.

Attorney Debra Dagostino represents many government workers who are stuck in limbo on paid leave and said it's no vacation.

"It's just easier for the government to send them home and pay them to do nothing," Dagostino said. "(These employees) want to work."

Grassley doesn't place the blame with the employees, but with government bureaucrats.

"It's become a crutch for poor management," the senator added.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told Gray his office follows legal guidelines for administrative leave, but has recently changed its policies to better monitor cases that stretch out over several months.

Grassley said he plans to introduce a bill to force departments to make faster decisions.

"It's going to take legislation to correct this," Grassley added.

The only punishment Johnson ever received was called a letter of counseling. It had to do with questions about her time card. The letter of counseling basically is a note in her personnel file.

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