Clinton calls for ‘more leeway’ in disciplining employees

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her hands were tied by federal regulations as she contemplated disciplinary actions for department officials who were negligent in preventing attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, according to congressional testimony.

At the House hearings on the Sept. 11, 2012 attack that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens, Clinton said four State employees were punished but not fired after an investigation. They are all currently on administrative leave. To dismiss an employee, Clinton said, the report would have had to show a “breach of duty.”

“Under federal statute and regulations, unsatisfactory leadership is not grounds for finding a breach of duty," she said. "And the [report] did not find that these four individuals breached their duty."

One of the four employees -- Assistant Secretary of State Eric Boswell -- resigned from his position but not from the department entirely, according to Fox News.

Clinton called the personnel restriction a “problem” and said she has submitted legislation to fix it.

“There ought to be more leeway,” she told the House Foreign Relations Committee.

Committee member Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said she thought the State employees got off easy.

“I'm sure that Congress will work on this important issue so that those held responsible for ignoring repeated requests for more security will not continue to enjoy their paid vacations, which is what administrative leave with salary is," Ros-Lehtinen said.

The House passed legislation late in the last Congress to suspend pay for any federal employee under investigation, but the bill was never picked up in the Senate. It defined wrongdoing as an employee accused of misappropriation of funds or other job-related misconduct. 
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec