Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post reports that Danny Harris, the chief information officer for the U.S. Department of Education, collapsed after a four-hour grilling into his after-hours business activities. He was rushed to the hospital but is okay now apparently. Harris is paid $180,000 for his work as a senior officer of the Department.


She writes:



The lawmakers’ concerns centered on an inspector general’s investigation that found Harris ran an after-hours car-detailing and home-theater-installation business that employed two subordinates from his agency and also allegedly accepted payments from other subordinates for the work.


The hearing also examined Harris’s effort to help a relative find work at the department and his close friendship with an agency vendor whose company has been awarded about $10 million in contracts to perform work that falls under the purview of his office.


Harris also failed to report an estimated $10,000 in income from his outside activities on federal disclosure forms and to the Internal Revenue Service, according to federal officials.


Although Harris told lawmakers that he exercised “poor judgment,” he said that his side jobs were hobbies, even as he earned money for them and paid subordinates to help him. He also had created business cards and a logo for the business.



When I worked in the U.S. Department of Education in the early 1990s, the ethical rules were extremely strict and unbending. If you worked at a high level, you could not pursue any outside business or have any outside earnings. Period. After I left the Department, I served on the National Assessment Governing Board (the board that oversees NAEP), an appointment by the Secretary of Education. There, even as an unpaid appointee, I had to fill out an ethics disclosure every year. At one point, I was investigated because the Department was concerned that I was receiving royalties from books that I had written. No, there was no conflict of interest. It was bizarre, but the point was that the rules were strong and made no exceptions.


Now, granted that a car-washing business and a home-theater installing business are not in conflict with education stuff. But that kind of outside income was strictly forbidden. That’s the way it was in 1991-1992. Maybe the rules have changed. Maybe senior officials can do what they want to earn extra money on the side.


Funny that Arne Duncan put himself in charge of policing every school in the nation, but couldn’t monitor his own immediate staff.