State/P Swears-In Amb. Molly Phee as Assistant Secretary for African Affairs

 

 

Related posts:

U.S. Senate Makes Minor Dent in Logjam, Confirms Lewis (PM), Robinson (INL), Phee (AF), Medina (OES), Donfried (EUR)

Updated: 9/29/21

Nomination: FSO Elizabeth Anne Noseworthy Fitzsimmons to be Ambassador to the Togolese Republic

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Elizabeth Anne Noseworthy Fitzsimmons to be Ambassador to the Republic of Togo. The WH released the following brief bio:

Elizabeth Anne Noseworthy Fitzsimmons, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs.  From 2018-2021, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Africa and Public Diplomacy.  Prior to that, she was Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Department.  Previous assignments include Deputy Executive Secretary to Secretaries Kerry and Tillerson, Senior Advisor at the Foreign Service Institute, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Fitzsimmons has served overseas in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, India and Bulgaria.  She has also worked in the State Department’s Operations Center and as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Executive Secretariat.  She earned a B.A. from the University of Virginia.  Fitzsimmons speaks Bulgarian, French and Chinese.

 

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US Amb to Rwanda Peter Vrooman to be Ambassador to Mozambique

 

President Biden recently announced his intent to nominate Peter Hendrick Vrooman to be the next Ambassador to Mozambique. The WH released the following brief bio:

Peter Hendrick Vrooman, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Mozambique

Peter Hendrick Vrooman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda.  Ambassador Vrooman recently served as the Chargé d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Prior to that he served as the spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi; Director for Iraq on the staff of the National Security Council in Washington, D.C.; and Deputy Political Counselor in Tel Aviv and at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  He also worked at the U.S. embassies in Baghdad, Beirut, and Djibouti, as well as the U.S. Liaison Office in Mogadishu, Somalia.  In Washington, he was a Watch Officer in the Department of State’s Operations Center and the Desk Officer for Algeria in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.  A native of New York, Ambassador Vrooman graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in Social Studies and earned an M.S. in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces, now known as the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy.  Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he worked as the special assistant to the President of the American University in Cairo.

If confirmed, Ambassador Vrooman would succeed Ambassador Dennis Walter Hearne, a career diplomat who was served in Maputo since January 2019.

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Nomination: Amb David R. Gilmour to be U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea

President Biden recently announced his intent to nominate David R. Gilmour to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. The WH released the following brief bio:

David R. Gilmour, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea

David R. Gilmour, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at the U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad.  He is a former U.S. Ambassador to the Togolese Republic.  He has served in the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Africa, Director of East African Affairs, and Director of Public Diplomacy for Africa.  He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassies in Panama and Malawi, and Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Mission in Geneva.  Other overseas assignments include Australia, Costa Rica, South Africa and Cameroon.  He is the recipient of numerous awards, including Partnership Excellence Award from the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnerships.  Gilmour received a B.A. from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, and an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.  He speaks French and Spanish.

If confirmed, Ambassador Gilmour would succeed career diplomat Susan Stevenson who was appointed to the US Embassy in Malabo in 2019.

US Embassy Conakry Issues Shelter in Place Alert, USG Condemns Military Seizure of Power in Guinea

 

 

On September 5, the US Embassy in Conakry issued a security alert warning U.S. citizens of “ongoing potential for disruption, demonstrations, gunfire”:

The events of September 5, 2021 continue to evolve in Guinea. U.S. citizens are reminded to continue to monitor local media, to remain at home or to shelter in place, to avoid demonstrations and large crowds, and to plan safety measures that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.

Meanwhile, Foggy Bottom condemned the military seizure of power in the country:

Violence and any extra-constitutional measures will only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability, and prosperity. These actions could limit the ability of the United States and Guinea’s other international partners to support the country as it navigates a path toward national unity and a brighter future for the Guinean people.

We urge all parties to forego violence and any efforts not supported by the Constitution and stand by the rule of law. We reiterate our encouragement of a process of national dialogue to address concerns sustainably and transparently to enable a peaceful and democratic way forward for Guinea to realize its full potential.

Security Alert – U. S. Embassy Conakry, Guinea (5 September, 2021)
Senior FSO Steven Koutsis assumed office as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at US Embassy Conakry in September 2020. Mr. Koutsis most recently served as CDA in Khartoum, Sudan from November 2016 to September 2019. Prior to that, Mr. Koutsis was Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.
Audu Besmer, a career FSO since 1999 arrived as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Conakry in August 2019. His prior overseas assignments include Management Officer in Togo, a detail to the Treasury Department as Deputy Financial Attaché in Japan, and postings at the U.S. Embassies in Zimbabwe and the Dominican Republic.

Related posts:

Biliovschi Smith v. Blinken: EFM Alleges Discrimination Under Title VII #superiorqualificationsrate

 

Via Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-03065 (CJN)
For over two years, Mihaela Biliovschi Smith worked for the State Department as a Media Outreach Assistant out of the American embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1. A series of disputes among Ms. Smith, a coworker, and embassy management resulted in Ms. Smith filing this lawsuit, which alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 55–60. The State Department has moved to dismiss, or alternatively, for summary judgment. See generally Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss & for Summ. J. (“Mot.”), ECF No. 28. The Court denies the motion for reasons that follow.1
1 In addition to denying the State Department’s motion for summary judgment, this Court also denies the State Department’s alternative motion to dismiss. Tyson v. Brennan, 306 F. Supp. 3d 365, 369 (D.D.C. 2017); Brooks v. Kerry, 37 F. Supp. 3d 187, 199 (D.D.C. 2014). For clarity’s sake, this memorandum opinion will refer to the State Department’s motion as a motion for summary judgment.
4 If a job candidate qualifies for higher pay based on a “superior qualifications determination,” Joint Statement ¶ 16, then the person could receive a superior qualification rate of pay, which compensates the individual because the employer based on the individual’s experience “may reasonably expect a higher level of performance beyond the requirements of the job,” id. ¶ 35.
5 This Court concludes that embassy management’s comments about Ms. Smith’s Romanian ethnicity do not constitute direct evidence of discrimination, but rather may “be probative of discrimination” under the burden-shifting framework in place for claims reliant on indirect evidence of discrimination. Isse v. Am. Univ., 540 F. Supp. 2d 9, 30 (D.D.C. 2008); Brady v. Livingood, 456 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2006) (noting that “direct evidence does not include stray remarks in the workplace”). In addition, Ms. Smith’s contention that she received lower pay based in part on her national origin satisfies the requirement that a Title VII discrimination plaintiff show that she suffered an adverse employment action. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1) (making it unlawful to discriminate with respect to “compensation”); Russell v. Principi, 257 F.3d 815, 819 (D.C. Cir. 2001).

I. Background
An American citizen of Romanian national origin, Mihaela Biliovschi Smith accompanied her husband Derrin Ray Smith to Yaoundé, Cameroon in August 2014.2 See Joint Chronological.

Statement of Material Facts (“Joint Statement”), ECF No. 38 at ¶¶ 1–3. Mr. Smith ventured to Africa to work as a foreign service officer with the U.S. embassy. Id. ¶ 3. During their first year in Cameroon together, Mr. and Ms. Smith attended an embassy-hosted dinner where the deputy chief of the embassy, Greg Thome, allegedly told Ms. Smith at the dinner table that her “country right now is the United States of America” and that “at the State Department, we don’t work for the interests of the Romanians.” Id. ¶ 5. Thome, Ms. Smith also claims, later inquired into whether she “spoke Russian.” Id. ¶ 13. Ms. Smith perceived Thome’s comments related to her Romanian ethnicity as odd, discomforting, and concerning. Derrin Ray Smith Decl. (“Smith Decl.”), ECF No. 31-8 at 2. Yet neither Ms. Smith nor her husband apparently took action in response.

Early in 2015, Ms. Smith applied for a position with the embassy as a “Media Outreach Assistant.” See Joint Statement ¶¶ 6, 10.3 She got the job. Id. ¶ 14. The job offer stated that Ms. Smith would begin her employment with the embassy at an entry-level pay rate. Id. ¶ 15. Upon receipt of the offer, Ms. Smith requested that the State Department conduct a superior qualifications rate review to determine whether she qualified for higher pay. Id. ¶¶ 16, 20. 4 The assistant in the human resources department in charge of preparing Ms. Smith’s hiring documents thought that Ms. Smith might qualify for a higher rate based on her “expansive knowledge” and experiential background. Id. ¶ 38.

Yet a higher-level manager in the human resources department, Charles Morrill, made the decision not to submit Ms. Smith’s paperwork for a superior qualifications review, id. ¶ 44, and when he informed her of that decision, he referenced her Romanian perspective and Balkanized mindset. Id. ¶ 51. When asked in his deposition to clarify these comments, Morrill stated that he knew the “mindset” of Romanians based on his experience working with “Eastern Europeans.” Charles Morrill Dep. (“Morrill’s Dep.”), ECF No. 28-9 at 4–5. He added that people from that part of the world hold a world view that “people are out to get you.” Id. at 5. The decision not to submit the paperwork generated conflict between Ms. Smith and embassy management. Ms. Smith nonetheless accepted the offer of employment.
[…]
In December 2018, Ms. Smith filed this lawsuit against her employer for discrimination and for creating a retaliatory and a hostile work environment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 55–60. The State Department has moved to for summary judgment on all of Ms. Smith’s claims.
[…]
Because a reasonable juror could find, based on the present record, that Ms. Smith suffered discrimination on the basis of national origin and that she was subjected to a hostile work environment on the basis of her sex and her engagement in protected activity, it would be inappropriate to grant the pending Motion for Summary Judgment. The State Department’s Motion for Summary Judgment is therefore Denied. An Order will be entered contemporaneously with this Memorandum Opinion.

The Memorandum of Opinion signed by Judge Carl J. Nichols of the District Court of the District of Columbia is available via public records here.

 

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Ambassador Patricia Mahoney: From Benin to the Central African Republic

 

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Patricia Mahoney to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

Patricia Mahoney, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Central African Republic

Patricia Mahoney, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Benin. Previously she was an Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Office Director of the Office of Mainland Southeast Asia, also in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Earlier, Mahoney was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, and before that the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal. Mahoney also served as Director for South Asia at the National Security Council. Mahoney earned her B.A. cum laude from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts and her M.A. from the University of Hawaii.  She is a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College in Washington, D.C., receiving an M.S. degree in 2009.  Ms. Mahoney speaks French, Thai, Nepali and Lao.

If confirmed, Ambassador Mahoney would succeed career diplomat Lucy Tamlyn who was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic on January 11, 2019.

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Nominated: State/ENR PDAS Virginia E. Palmer to be U.S. Ambassador to Ghana

 

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Virginia E. Palmer to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. The WH released the following brief bio:

Virginia E. Palmer, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Ghana

Virginia E. Palmer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources.  She has served as Acting Assistant Secretary since January 20, 2021, overseeing U.S. foreign policy engagement at the critical intersection of our energy, climate and national security goals.  Before assuming her current position, Palmer was the Deputy Commandant and International Affairs Advisor at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University.  She served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malawi from 2015 until 2019.  Prior to that, she was Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires a.i., at the U.S. Embassy in South Africa;  Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires a.i. at the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam; the State Department’s Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism; and Director of the Bureau of East A’s Office of Economic Policy and the alternate U.S. Senior Official for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).  Other postings include assignments in Canada, Zimbabwe, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Kenya.  Palmer obtained her M.A. from the University of Virginia and a BSFS from Georgetown University.  She also attended Washington University in St. Louis.  She speaks Chinese and French.

If confirmed, Ambassador Palmer would succeed Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan who has been Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Accra since September 6, 2018.

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Executive Secretariat’s Howard A. Van Vranken to be U.S. Ambassador to Botswana

 

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate career diplomat Howard A. Van Vranken to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Botswana. The WH released the following brief bio:

Howard A. Van Vranken, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Republic of Botswana

Howard A. Van Vranken, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Executive Director and Deputy Executive Secretary for the Executive Secretariat at the U.S. Department of State. Previously, he was Executive Director and Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and Deputy Executive Director in the Executive Office for the Bureaus of Near Eastern Affairs and South and Central Asian Affairs. Earlier, Van Vranken was Management Counselor and, prior to that, the Deputy Political Counselor, for U.S. Embassy Baghdad.  Van Vranken served in Israel as Management Officer and later as Acting Political Counselor in Jerusalem and as the Human Resource Officer at the Embassy in Tel Aviv. He was also the leader of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Babil Province, Iraq. Van Vranken earned his B.A. degree from the University of California, Davis and his M.A. from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. He speaks Arabic, Farsi, and Norwegian.  He is the recipient of as the Presidential Distinguished Service Award.

If confirmed, Mr. Van Vranken would succeed Ambassador Craig Cloud who has been chief of mission at US Embassy Gaborone since April 2019. According to AFSA, of the 17 ambassadors appointed to Botswana since 1960, only 4 or 23.5% were non-career appointees.

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