The Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general has interviewed the ousted leaders of the department’s fledgling cyber operations center as part of a reprisal complaint, the pair’s attorney told Nextgov on March 22.
It’s not clear, however, if that means the inspector general has launched a formal investigation into the September incident in which center director Maggie Amato and the department’s former Deputy Chief Information Security Officer Leo Scanlon were abruptly reassigned following an anonymous complaint alleging contracting improprieties.
The revelation is the latest in a series of events that have upended top tech and cyber leadership at the department.
Department CISO Chris Wlaschin, who oversaw the reassignments and later led the Health Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, or HCCIC, announced his resignation earlier this month. He will be replaced by Janet Vogel, deputy chief information officer at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Wlaschin told Nextgov in an interview March 26 that his resignation is entirely for personal and family reasons, and unrelated to disputes over the HCCIC.
Some industry officials and lawmakers believed it duplicated work that was already being done by the Homeland Security Department and the healthcare industry.
HCCIC defenders said the center performed a vital function, ensuring that government cyber alerts were tailored and translated for the healthcare sector and that smaller healthcare companies and hospitals received cyber threat assistance that the free market wouldn’t otherwise provide.
Scanlon and Amato were initially told they were reassigned away from the HCCIC because of an inspector general investigation into contracting improprieties. The alleged improprieties included free dinners and winery tours offered by cybersecurity companies, according to an anonymous letter delivered to the Senate Homeland Security Committee in July and later provided to Nextgov.
Inspector general investigators later told the pair that they were not, and had never been under IG investigation, according to a March 12 letter McCullough sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
The inspector general’s office declined to confirm or deny any investigation to Nextgov.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which requested information about Scanlon and Amato’s reassignments in November, said the committee is “still reviewing the situation and, therefore, cannot provide any information at this time.”
Scanlon, meanwhile, has been on leave for more than 150 days.