This story has been updated.
A White House nomination is on hold, and lawmakers are raising questions over possible violations of veterans’ preference because of a flap over improper hiring practices at the Treasury Department.
Two congressional Republicans are requesting more information from Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network over an audit this past winter that concluded the bureau used improper criteria when screening and hiring candidates for certain jobs. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, put a hold this week on the nomination of Nani Coloretti to be deputy secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Department to prod Treasury into turning over documents related to the inquiry. Coloretti is Treasury’s assistant secretary for management.
On the other side of the Capitol, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is also demanding answers. At issue is a routine human capital audit conducted by the Office of Personnel Management in February at FinCEN that found employees had applied illegal hiring criteria for several job openings, violating the rules of competitive service hiring in the federal government. Treasury in March temporarily suspended the bureau’s hiring authority, and according to a May 2 Reuters report, withdrew 11 job offers as a result of the audit.
Treasury officials -- and now members of Congress -- are also looking into the possibility that veterans’ preference may have been illegally circumvented in the process. Military veterans are given preference over other eligible, non-veteran candidates for federal jobs in the competitive service. According to a May 9 Reuters report, FinCEN screened candidates in an effort to hire only lawyers for certain jobs, but did not advertise in the vacancy announcements that those positions required a law degree.
Federal hiring rules prohibit agencies from screening candidates for qualifications not included in the job posting.
“The fact that FinCEN allegedly rejected pools of candidates made up of qualified veterans who met the criteria listed in the initial job postings effectively amounts to discrimination,” Issa wrote in a June 2 letter to FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery requesting documents related to the incident. “Yet, instead of offering the jobs to qualified veterans as required by law, FinCEN applied additional improper requirements to applicants, and then pulled the listings and re-posted the jobs with requirements typically held by lawyers with prosecutorial experience,” the letter said, citing the May 9 Reuters report.
FinCEN spokesman Steve Hudak said in statement that the agency "continues to recruit and hire excellent staff who are helping to safeguard the financial system and promote national security. We have no comment on other personnel issues."
In the May 9 Reuters report, Hudak told the news service that 25 percent of FinCEN’s new hires in 2013 were vets.
FinCEN’s mission is to prevent and combat money laundering.