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Veterans Affairs says official ran bakery on clock

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By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Department of Veterans Affairs official used government time and resources to run an Internet-based bakery called Shugga Mommas, selling "decadent" cakes and pies.

A report issued last week by the VA's Inspector General concluded the human resources administrator in the agency's central office in Washington used "official time and resources to conduct personal business during VA duty hours."

The report blacked out names, but its descriptions match those on a website for the suburban Washington-based Shugga Mommas. A VA administrator, Rasheeda J. Holdip, incorporated the firm in 2002, Maryland records show.

VA officials did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment.

The website and report describe Shugga Mommas as "a family business based in the Washington, D.C., area that has been baking delicious desserts together for generations. From our kitchen to yours, we create the best homemade cakes and pies on the Internet."

Holdip told investigators her VA boss, Rayshad Holmes, knew about her business and ordered goods from her, the report states.

Holmes, according to the report, denied buying baked goods from Holdip. He said he thought the business was a hobby.

Investigators found that Holdip repeatedly used her VA-issued BlackBerry to confirm orders and used her personal and VA e-mail accounts to conduct business during regular duty hours, including times when she was supposed to be teleworking from home.

"Our decadent desserts are made with the finest all-natural ingredients, and we never forget to include a healthy dose of love in all our creations. You can taste our passion for great cakes in every bite," Shugga Mommas' website boasts.

Neither Holmes nor Holdip responded to requests for comment.

The report cited Holmes for violating personnel rules by hiring Holdip. Holmes did not disclose to colleagues his prior relationship with Holdip and alerted her to the job opening in his division, the report said. It cites a statement from another VA administrator who concluded that Holmes should have recused himself from her hiring.

The bakery's incorporation records listed a home Holdip and her husband own as its corporate address. She incorporated another real estate management firm at the address.

Maryland revoked the charters of both firms for failure to file annual reports, but the businesses continued to operate.

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