It pays to work for the federal government if you have a loose definition of what constitutes work. A new watchdog report finds that while federal drug agents were under investigation or had been disciplined for attending sex parties with prostitutes, they received hefty bonuses worth thousands of dollars.
In 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) began probing about a dozen agents who allegedly solicited prostitutes for sex parties at government-leased properties in Columbia. The lights on this investigation were flipped on this year as we all learned that taxpayers were funding lascivious behavior. It led to the DEA’s administrator eventually resigning.
Fourteen agents eventually came under scrutiny, but according to the Justice Department’s Inspector General report, the DEA violated its own policy that prohibits employees from receiving awards, promotion, or other personnel actions for three years after being disciplined for “significant misconduct” or if they are under investigation for committing misconduct.
Eight of fourteen agents under investigation as part of the Columbia sex scandals received bonuses and time off even though they reportedly were disciplined for significant misconduct. The amount of the awards ranged from $1,500 to nearly $32,000.
Also, several of the agents received favorable personnel action, but there was no documentation explaining why.
The report concluded with a couple of no-brainer recommendations:
1. DEA management should ensure that DEA officials are fully aware of and consistently comply with its awards policy for employees who have been subject to discipline for significant misconduct or who are under investigation and, if there is a basis for an exception to the policy, that it is clearly documented.
2. DEA officials should consider conducting integrity checks in close proximity to the issuance of a favorable personnel action to ensure a proposed action is not issued while an employee is the subject of a misconduct investigation. In addition, the DEA should retain for 5 years all results of the integrity checks it conducts, including documentation reflecting final determinations on all award requests and the rationale therefor.
In essence, do your job, DEA. Track whether those under investigation are getting awards and ensure that those who have engaged in misconduct don’t get a prize for bad behavior.
Congress is rightly irritated about this slip-up as the Washington Post reports:
In a written response to the inspector general’s report, Michael Dixon, DEA’s acting deputy chief of inspections, said the agency has put new procedures in place to beef up its review of bonuses and other awards in an effort to flag cases that would disqualify potential bonuses because of ongoing misconduct investigations.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called it “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.”
Let’s hope that this report and media attention on it will drive changes at the DEA. Perhaps, even rescinding those bonuses. Unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath.
It took five years for the original behavior to come to light. And there appears to be a culture that doesn’t prioritize weeding out wrong-doing, but is permissive of it.