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State Dept. IG: Appointees Retaliated Against Career Feds Over Perceived ‘Disloyalty’

Watchdog found multiple instances where career employees were retaliated against, or denied promotions, because of a perception that they were “Obama holdovers.”

The State Department Office of the Inspector General reported Thursday that two political appointees in the department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs routinely retaliated against career employees that they viewed as “disloyal” to the Trump administration.

The long-awaited report accuses Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Kevin Moley and former senior adviser Mari Stull of several instances of systematically targeting career staffers based on work they carried out during the Obama administration. Stull left the State Department in January 2019.

In one case, an employee tasked with accompanying congressional delegations to international organizations was reassigned to “mostly administrative tasks” because she had accompanied members of the Congressional Black Caucus to the United Nations in April 2018. The employee eventually left the State Department because of her effective reassignment.

“When the employee returned from the trip, Ms. Stull expressed displeasure with her for accompanying the Congressional Black Caucus delegation because it consisted of only Democratic members,” the inspector general wrote. “Ms. Stull accused the employee of trying to ‘thwart’ President Trump and undermine his agenda. After the trip, many of the employee’s job responsibilities were taken away.”

Stull and Moley routinely accused employees of “disloyalty” based on their perceived political views and the fact that they worked at the department during the Obama administration, both in public and private, the inspector general found. And Stull reportedly praised employees if they had made financial contributions to Republican political candidates.

“Several career employees reported that throughout her tenure at the department, Ms. Stull referred to them or to other career employees as ‘Obama holdovers,’ ‘traitors,’ or ‘disloyal,’ ” the report stated. “[Other] career employees told OIG that Ms. Stull accused them of being part of the ‘Deep State’ and that the assistant secretary accused them of ‘undermining the president’s agenda.’ In addition, shortly after her arrival in IO, Ms. Stull referred to her IO colleagues as the ‘swamp’ on her personal Twitter account.”

In addition, Moley likely improperly influenced the hiring process for a new deputy director for the Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. The inspector general found that Moley and Stull effectively canceled the hiring process for that job after discovering that the leading candidate for the position had previously done work related to LGBTQ rights and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

“Ms. Stull raised objections to the employee’s work in the department on issues affecting the UNRWA and on gay and lesbian rights,” the inspector general wrote. “Other IO employees told OIG that they had heard similar criticism of the employee by Ms. Stull contemporaneous with the decision to cancel the selection process.”

Once the list of eligible candidates had expired, Stull pushed hiring officials to politicize the job descriptions of all future postings within the department.

“Shortly after the certificate of eligible candidates expired, Ms. Stull met with officials in the Joint Executive Office and instructed them that the position descriptions for all future vacancies should ‘reflect President Trump’s agenda’ and stated that they should ‘require conformance to the president’s beliefs,’” the report stated. “The Joint Executive Office officials informed Ms. Stull that position descriptions are based on guidance from the Office of Personnel Management, so they could not carry out her instructions.”

Additionally, the inspector general concluded that Moley “dismissed” his first principal deputy secretary of state (PDAS) because she expressed concerns about Stull’s treatment of career employees and efforts to enlist junior staff’s help in an “administrative claim” with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, where she previously worked. She retaliated against those employees, whom she “believed had been insufficiently supportive of her position in her employment claim with the FAO.”

“The PDAS requested a meeting with Assistant Secretary Moley to discuss how to encourage civility and to again raise concerns about the treatment of employees,” the inspector general wrote. “During this meeting . . . the assistant secretary told the PDAS that he did not believe that her concerns about Ms. Stull were valid, and that he needed Ms. Stull to help him manage IO. The assistant secretary told the PDAS that it was obvious to him that she had problems working with Ms. Stull and that, therefore, the PDAS should be prepared to leave the bureau.”

The inspector general recommended that the department develop a plan to address “the leadership and management deficiencies” at the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, and consider disciplinary action for Moley. The department concurred with both recommendations.

“The department noted that two IO officials are named in the report, but [Stull] is no longer employed by the department and therefore not subject to any disciplinary action,” the report stated. “The remaining official has already been counseled regarding his leadership, and the department will consider additional discipline based on OIG’s ‘assessment’ of the response from Assistant Secretary Moley.”

Moley disputed the incidents laid out in the report, and said the inspector general “mischaracterized” the situations involving the principal deputy secretary and the hiring of a new Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs deputy director. The inspector general’s office defended its conclusions.

“OIG stands by its findings, which are based on over 40 interviews and on documentary evidence,” the report stated. “As noted above, nearly every IO employee interviewed by OIG raised concerns about the leadership of IO and the treatment of staff.”