U.S. Marshals file photo

Marshals Service Misused Leave Policies During Probe of Top Official

Justice’s watchdog cites waste of funds in retaining chief deputy recommended for dismissal.

The U.S. Marshals Service violated employee leave policies and wasted taxpayer money in allowing a top official slated for termination to stay on, a watchdog found.

The Justice Department inspector general’s most recent probe of the agency’s handling of older allegations of sexual misconduct and retaliation against whistleblowers by a chief deputy marshal faulted the agency for “gross mismanagement.”

The report released last week follows earlier reports of investigations concluding that the chief deputy “engaged in sexual harassment, lack of candor and other serious misconduct,” including retaliation against employees who cooperated with IG investigators.

The Marshals Service twice proposed that the chief deputy—not named in the reports—be removed from federal service.

Instead, the official was placed on administrative leave. Then a Marshals Service “deciding official” determined again that the official should be removed for the misconduct. “However, one month later, the USMS entered into a settlement agreement with the [chief deputy marshal] that rescinded the removal penalty, thereby effectively providing no discipline whatsoever for his established serious misconduct,” according to the latest summary released on Oct. 18.

The Marshals Service permitted the official to use various leave mechanisms including annual leave, sick leave and leave without pay for about nine months that enabled the chief deputy marshal to reach his full retirement date.

Inspector general investigators were told that the agency settled short of removing the official because of “litigation risk associated with” the removal.

As background, four months before the official’s required retirement date, the IG issued a report on Feb. 23, 2017. It found that the chief deputy had “engaged in retaliatory actions against [Marshals Service] employees for reporting serious violations by the [chief deputy] and for their cooperation with the OIG in its initial investigation,” while supervisors also directed a reassigned subordinate employee to claim work hours during his daily commute, in violation of federal and agency travel rules.

Three months later the agency again proposed terminating the chief deputy. “However, because the USMS did not properly serve the [chief deputy] with its removal proposal until just before the [chief deputy’s] retirement date, the CDUSM was able to attain full retirement eligibility and retire without any disciplinary action being taken against him.”

One allegation not substantiated by investigators was that the agency’s handling of the matter violated federal leave provisions and the statutory notice requirement for matters with the jurisdiction of the Office of Special Counsel.

 But the IG characterized the overall handling of this high-level official’s case as “wholly unacceptable and antithetical to the interests of accountability for USMS employees. Moreover, to the extent USMS employees were aware that the USMS failed to hold the [chief deputy] accountable for his serious misconduct, the OIG noted that the handling of this case sends a message to USMS employees that senior USMS officials will not be held to account for their serious misconduct, thereby possibly dissuading USMS employees from coming forward to report misconduct by USMS officials.”

The IG referral leaves it to current agency leaders to determine any disciplinary action against the personnel officials involved in the handling of the chief deputy’s final months in federal service.

The Marshals Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.