FSGB: Extra/Marital Drama With Three Women, Two Pregnancies, and a Reduced 12-Day Suspension

 

Via ROP/FSGB 2020-036/September 21, 2021:

Held – The Department of State (“Department”) met its burden of demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence that grievant committed the misconduct with which he was charged; that the discipline proposal was timely and without procedural defect; and that the proposed penalty was reasonable and proportionate to the misconduct.

Case Summary – Grievant was serving as a Diplomatic Security (“DS”) Special Agent (“SA”) at an overseas post with his then-wife. He was engaged in extramarital affairs with two women employed at the embassy (both of whom became pregnant), failed to report these relationships, failed to report out of country travel with one of the two women, and threatened and intimidated the other woman, prompting two investigations and his voluntary curtailment from post. Two years later, while participating in a meeting concerning the medical evacuation (“medevac”) of his new wife, grievant was accused of bullying and intimidating behavior toward personnel from the Bureau of Medical Services (“MED”), prompting a third investigation. On December 8, 2017, the Department proposed a 30-day suspension without pay, on five charges with 22 specifications. On January 23, 2019, the Department sustained the proposed 30-day suspension. Grievant filed a grievance, challenging the validity of the charges and the severity of the penalty. In the agency-level grievance decision, the Department sustained four charges with 13 specifications and reduced the suspension to 12 days.

Grievant alleged that much of the conduct reflected misunderstandings. He stated that his first marriage was failing when he arrived at post and he eventually married, and remains married to, one of the two women with whom he had affairs. He contended that the investigations into his alleged misconduct were marred by the bias and unprofessional conduct of post’s Regional Security Office as well as being unduly delayed, causing him personal and professional harm. He argued that the alleged misconduct at the MED meeting resulted from mistreatment of his family by MED and should be dismissed. Grievant also alleged that the discipline was untimely, coming almost six years after the first alleged act of misconduct until the Department’s agency-level decision, an unreasonable period of time that impacted his ability to grieve a flawed process and manage his career. Grievant also argued that the Department did not meet its burden of proving the charges, appropriately weigh mitigating factors, or offer timely or proportionate discipline. Grievant argued that the charges should be dropped, or the penalty substantially reduced.

The Department responded that the complexity of the case and number of incidents leading to successive investigations, justified the time necessary to propose discipline. The agency also rebutted allegations that the discipline process was procedurally flawed, asserting that it properly assessed the charges and grievant’s misconduct, considered all mitigating factors, and levied a penalty that was both fair and proportionate.

The Foreign Service Grievance Board (“Board”) found that the Department met its burden of proving all charges and specifications. The Board found no procedural errors and concluded that the charges were not stale and the delay not prejudicial. The Board upheld the Department’s penalty determination process, including an assessment of all mitigating factors and review of appropriate comparator cases. The grievance was denied in full.

According to the ROP, the grievant was advised on January 25, 2017, “This case is still ongoing pending additional information.”8 Notwithstanding this notice, in February 2017, grievant was promoted to FS-03, still as an ARSO, retroactive to November 2016.9″
The small prints:
1 Although grievant was once tenured as a DS SA and promoted to FS-03 in that capacity, he subsequently changed careers to FSO generalist at a reduced grade of FS-04 and he remains untenured in that capacity.
9 The Department reported that grievant’s name was “temporarily removed from the rank order list of employees recommended for promotion by his 2016 FS Selection Board pending a standard vetting check …. [D]ue to his then-pending discipline cases, [he] should have been continually reported [as ineligible for promotion] in the ensuing vetting checks …. [I]t appears that [grievant’s] name was not properly reported [in early 2017] … resulting in the erroneous reinstatement of his name to the promotion list.” See Agency Amended Response to Board Request for Information, at 3-4.
ROPs available to read via FSGB.
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US Embassy Manila: USINDOPACOM Employee Pleads Guilty For Removal of Classified Material

 

Via USDOJ:  Woman Pleads Guilty to Unauthorized Removal and Retention of Classified Material

A Hawaii woman pleaded guilty today to one count of knowingly removing classified information concerning the national defense or foreign relations of the United States and retaining it at an unauthorized location.

According to court documents, Asia Janay Lavarello, 31, of Honolulu, admitted to having removed and retained numerous classified documents, writings and notes relating to the national defense or foreign relations of the United States without authority. While working as an Executive Assistant for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, Lavarello accepted a temporary assignment working at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. There, she had access to classified computers and documents, and attended classified meetings as part of her official duties. Court documents list several specific instances in which Lavarello mishandled classified material of the United States.

According to her plea, on March 20, 2020, Lavarello removed classified documents from the U.S. Embassy in Manila. She took the classified documents to her hotel room where she hosted a dinner party later that evening. Among the guests were two foreign nationals. During the party, a co-worker discovered the documents, which included documents classified at the SECRET level. Lavarello’s temporary assignment in the Philippines was ultimately terminated due to her mishandling of SECRET classified documents.

After Lavarello returned to Hawaii, investigators executed a search warrant at her government workplace. In her desk, investigators found a notebook containing Lavarello’s handwritten notes of meetings she attended while working at the U.S. Embassy in Manila. The notes contained facts and information classified at the CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET levels. Investigators determined that Lavarello personally transported the documents to Hawaii, unsecured, and kept the classified notebook at an unsecure location until at least April 13, 2020.

Investigators also discovered that Lavarello included information from the classified notebook in a Jan. 16, 2020, email from her personal Gmail account to her unclassified U.S. Government email account. The information she transmitted over unsecure networks was classified at the SECRET level.

Lavarello pleaded guilty to the charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material and faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) are investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mohammed Khatib of the District of Hawaii and Trial Attorney Stephen Marzen of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

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Justice Breyer Swears-In Victoria Reggie Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Austria

 

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Around the World in Tweets: Assistant Secretaries