ATF Misclassified Jobs. A Senator Wants the Justice Department to Dig Deeper.
Citing concerns by the whistleblowers who triggered the investigation that found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had systematically misclassified administrative jobs as law enforcement-related, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, asked the Justice Department to do a more thorough investigation.
A Republican senator on Tuesday called on the Justice Department to conduct a “full assessment” of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ recently revealed practice of misclassifying administrative positions as law enforcement, costing the agency millions in pay and benefits over a five-year span.
Earlier this month, the Office of Special Counsel issued a report substantiating the allegations of two whistleblowers, finding that ATF had systematically misclassified at least 91 administrative jobs at agency headquarters as related to law enforcement, improperly making those employees eligible for enhanced retirement benefits and Law Enforcement Availability Pay, a form of overtime.
An ATF assessment of the impact of the job misclassifications found that it amounted to between $9.7 million and $19.7 million in improperly granted pay and retirement benefits over a five-year period. ATF and the Office of Personnel Management are in the midst of a process to identify exactly how many of the positions identified in an audit were actually misclassified and to correct the errors.
But Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Tuesday sent a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz urging officials to conduct a more expansive review of ATF’s human resources practices, citing concerns from the two whistleblowers that the OSC report and OPM audit did not adequately capture how widespread ATF’s misclassification practices are.
“I remain concerned about the limited scope of remediating actions. According to the whistleblowers, OSC’s report ‘did not adequately capture the extent of ATF’s illegal practices or the full impact of the harm,’” she wrote. “In fact, the whistleblowers believe ‘there were many more misclassified positions than were captured in [OPM’s] audit and that the agency significantly underreported the waste directly and tangentially associated with the widespread practice of misclassifying positions,’ including failing to account for the impact of the wrongdoing on ATF’s non-law enforcement personnel.”
Ernst asked the inspector general to conduct a “full assessment” of ATF’s job misclassification practices, including working with the whistleblowers to capture the full scope of the alleged wrongdoing, ensuring that the agency recovers the excess pay and benefits provided to misclassified employees, as well as recommendations for disciplinary action for any ATF employees who are implicated for “improper or illegal activity.”
“The American people deserve to know the full extent of the ATF bureaucrats’ dishonest dealings,” Ernst wrote. “It is incumbent upon all public servants to act with the utmost levels of professionalism, but when bureaucrats abuse the public trust, it is the responsibility of watchdogs to hold the bad actors accountable for their malfeasance.”