A senior Department of Veterans Affairs official in the scandal-ridden Pennsylvania regional office abused her position by pressuring employees to participate in psychic readings, according to an Inspector General report released Thursday.
Lucy Filipov, who was the acting director of benefits, misused her position by charging her VA subordinates a fee to attend a private gathering at her home where a colleague's wife, a practicing psychic-medium, gave readings, according to USA Today.
"I'll have munchies, wine/beer/vodka.... [The psychic] will be doing private readings, they are $35," Filipov said in an email to eight senior employees that was sent from her official VA email account. In a separate message to personal friends who were also invited, she said that "it will be a little bit of a girls night too."
Once Filipov realized that the psychic would only do readings to groups of six or more, she tried to persuade more subordinates and friends to attend, writing in an email to a friend, "This is supposed to be more like Teresa the Long Island Medium, less a psychic and more a talk to dead people kind of thing."
The readings were provided by the wife of Gary Hodge, another VA executive who manages pension payouts at the Philadelphia office. The report also found that Hodge "failed to report his spouse's [$20,000] income on his 2013 and 2014 Confidential Financial Disclosure Reports," which he certified as true, complete and correct. His wife claims to be able to predict the future and communicate with the dead.
Attendees told investigators that they paid between $15 and $35 for the psychic services. They left the money in Filipov's kitchen, who then collected it and gave it to Hodge's wife. Most were unhappy with the experience and bickered over who was going to be read first so they could go home sooner.
The report found that Filipov failed to first check with an ethics official to approve the event, and she misused her authority by encouraging subordinates to attend the readings for the private gain of Hodge and his wife. Further, the report said Filipov failed to maintain adequate distance between herself and the subordinates she handpicked to attend the event, possibly creating "an appearance of preferential treatment" and diminishing "her authority as a senior leader."
"This report is yet another example of Philadelphia VA Regional Office officials exhibiting horrible judgment," Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said in a statement to The Daily Caller. "In a large organization such as VA, you can't always prevent bad behavior before it happens. What you can do, however, is ensure wrongdoers who are caught red-handed are seriously and appropriately punished. So far, VA has been unwilling to take this common sense step in one case after another, creating the impression that the department is more interested in defending the dysfunctional civil service status quo than actually reforming itself."