A senior Veterans Affairs Department official in Colorado was forced to step down Monday after an investigation found she helped steer more than $2 million worth of government business to a company that employed her old boss and then lied about her actions.
Patricia Gheen, deputy chief business officer for purchased care at the Veterans Health Administration, retired at management’s request, said Glenn Johnson, a spokesman for the VHA’s Health Administration Center in Denver.
Gheen was a 37-year VA employee and Senior Executive Service member. The department’s inspector general released a report this week detailing her activities on behalf of Corrigo Health Care Solutions, a Florida consulting firm. The company’s executives include Charles DeCoste, who had been Gheen’s immediate supervisor at the Boston VA Medical Center years before and remained in close contact with her, according to the report.
DeCoste retired from his federal job and went to work for Corrigo in 2007. Before DeCoste’s arrival at Corrigo, the company had received only two VA contracts worth a total of $179,000 in 2002 and 2003, the investigation found. But from mid-2008 to early 2010, Corrigo won eight contracts for risk management and other services from the VA’s Health Administration Center where Gheen worked, the inquiry found.
In all, that business was worth almost $2.3 million. Of the eight contracts, three were improper set-asides for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, four were sole source, and the last was structured to ensure that Corrigo received it, the report said.
Although Gheen denied having a role in the procurement process, investigators with the IG’s office concluded that she wrote the contract terms and then helped manage the contracts once in place. In the report, they recommended that VA take “appropriate administrative action” against Gheen.
Apart from seeking Gheen’s retirement, VA officials took no other disciplinary action against her, Johnson said.
The inspector general also urged VA to inform Corrigo leaders of their responsibility as government contractors “to conduct themselves with the highest degree of integrity and honesty.”
In a memo attached to the report, Dr. Robert Jesse, principal deputy undersecretary for health at VA, called the situations outlined in the report “unacceptable” and said his office would ensure that the inspector general’s recommendations were followed. Jesse did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Gheen could not be reached at the home phone number listed for her in the Denver area. DeCoste was also not available. In a statement released by Corrigo managing partner Gerry Busch, the company said that the IG’s report contains “numerous factual errors and misstatements” regarding its work for VA. Corrigo, however, has yet to make public any formal response to the report.