Washington, D.C. - Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Willie May requesting documents and information after an explosion last summer at a NIST facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland was caused by the manufacturing of the illegal drug methamphetamine.  A senior officer with NIST Police Services, Christopher Bartley, recently pled guilty to attempting to manufacture the methamphetamine that caused the explosion.

The Committee has requested building access records for building 236 where Mr. Bartley attempted to manufacture the illegal drug. However, NIST has declined to provide building access records citing an ongoing investigation by the Commerce Department’s Inspector General.

“This Committee has a legitimate interest in the safety of NIST employees and ensuring that agency property is not used to produce illegal drugs,” Smith wrote. “The building access records are essential to the Committee’s oversight.”

Smith said that information obtained by the Committee shows “a culture of waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct at NIST Police Services.”  For example, Officer Bartley allegedly had sexual relations with other NIST employees on agency property, in vehicles owned by the government, while on official duty. 

“More troubling, it appears that agency officials were aware of Mr. Bartley’s conduct but failed to take appropriate disciplinary actions and even selected him as interim chief of police despite his misconduct,” Smith wrote.

Documents reviewed by the Committee also indicate that time and attendance fraud occurs regularly at NIST Police Services.  In one instance, Mr. Bartley allegedly worked 84 hours of overtime during a two week period while also covering his full-time shifts.  It also appears that police equipment worth thousands of dollars is unaccounted for or missing from the police force. 

“If this information is accurate, it raises serious questions about the lack of internal agency controls at NIST. The American people expect the federal government to exercise responsible stewardship of their tax dollars.”

The letter requests documents and information to better understand the extent of abuses and mismanagement at NIST Police Services, as well as a staff site visit of the NIST campus, including building 236 where the meth lab explosion occurred.

The full letter can be found here.