DEA Paid Bonuses to Employees With Records of Sexual Harassment, Other Misconduct
Justice watchdog details $5,000 awarded to official reprimanded for yelling, porn-watching.
Eight Drug Enforcement Administration employees with records of sexual harassment or other misconduct were given bonus awards contrary to agency policy, a watchdog found.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in a report released Thursday said a review of 20 awards primarily from $1,000 to $5,000 spread among 14 DEA staff (including supervisors) found 10 bonuses that were questionable.
“DEA policy generally prohibited employees from receiving such awards for three years after being subject to discipline for significant misconduct or while a misconduct investigation is pending, absent a specifically approved basis for approval,” the report said. Some of the employees investigated received multiple awards.
In one case, a DEA assistant regional director became the subject of a complaint from the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service saying that the director, while overseas in 2009-10, “made numerous inappropriate sexual comments; asked the assistant to watch pornographic movies; and, among other allegations, routinely threw items, yelled at employees, and used other vulgarities in the office and at official functions.” After an investigation, the director received a letter of reprimand.
Four months before the reprimand’s expiration period, he was awarded a $5,000 bonus.
One other regional director failed to relay reports that overseas subordinates had patronized prostitutes years earlier, a revelation that produced a news media uproar. This director went on to receive four performance awards: three Senior Executive Service bonus awards and one SES Meritorious Executive Rank award, totaling $68,600.15.
“It is astounding that employees who should have been prosecuted, fired, or at a minimum, severely disciplined for their misconduct, were instead given undeserved promotions and bonuses,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who requested the investigation last April. “Rewarding bad apples promotes a toxic work environment. It destroys morale and is a disservice to the majority of hard-working federal employees who play by the rules,” he said in a statement. “It is a disgrace that taxpayer dollars are being wasted on those who violate our trust and abuse their positions. If we want a culture of excellence in the federal workforce, we must penalize bad behavior and reward merit. “
Chaffetz’s panel is pursuing legislation to address unmerited bonuses.
Investigators did find that seven awards complied with DEA policy, though in three other cases, insufficient documentation prevented a conclusion.
One of the 14 individuals discussed in the report has retired from the DEA, two remain in the same overseas positions, and the remaining 11 continue as DEA agents or supervisory agents around the country.
The IG recommended that DEA do more to ensure that officials are aware of and consistently comply with agency awards policies. The DEA agreed.