Justice Department corrects past denial to Sen. Grassley.
A whistleblower’s allegation of a quid pro quo hire at the U.S. Marshals Service gained credibility on Monday when Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, released internal agency emails and a corrected letter from the Justice Department confirming that the allegations remain under investigation.
The new emails suggest that Director Stacia Hylton was involved in the alleged exchange of favors, which could constitute the second recent case of Justice managers bypassing the hiring process based on personal relationships.
In March, Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to relay a whistleblower charge that the Marshals Service’s Asset Forfeiture Division improperly waived qualification requirements to hire Donald Lenzie for a high-paying contractor position in 2011. Grassley labeled Lenzie “unqualified” to be a senior forfeiture financial specialist, noting an internal email to that effect, and suggested that his candidacy was favored by Hylton and pressed by Kimberly Beal, who was later promoted to be assistant director of the asset forfeiture division.
Justice’s initial response was a letter saying that Lenzie, though rejected for the position he originally sought, was deemed qualified for a less senior job, and that his hiring was “not unduly influenced by the director.” It said Director Hylton did not instruct Beal to hire the contractor and denied any link between the Lenzie hiring and Beal’s promotion to assistant director of the forfeiture division three years later.
But as Grassley announced on Monday, Justice has now walked back those statements. An April 17 letter to Grassley, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said, “we are extremely concerned that we have provided you with inaccurate information.” Citing a desire to both respond to Grassley and meet his deadlines, Justice said that as part of an ongoing review, the Marshals Service “provided us with the enclosed email chain, which we bring to your attention because it appears to be inconsistent with representations” in the earlier letter. The second letter was copied to the Justice inspector general.
The newly released September 2011 emails included a resume from candidate Lenzie, sent by Beal both to Assistant Director Eben Morales and to Director Hylton, via what was labeled by the Justice Department as her personal email account.
Grassley, who has gone after the Marshals on issues of overspending on office decor, added that the unnamed whistleblowers had reported the allegations to the Marshals Service general counsel in December 2013, but no action was apparently taken.
“I appreciate the Justice Department correcting an inaccurate answer,” Grassley said in a statement. “However, I am concerned that DOJ is continuing to allow the U.S. Marshals Service to conduct this review in light of the inaccurate information it has supplied. This revelation calls into question the ability of the U.S. Marshals Service to thoroughly investigate improper behavior of its own leadership.”