@StateDept Announces Return of Amb. Kenneth Merten as @USEmbassyHaiti Chargé d’Affaires

 

On September 23, following Ambassador Foote’s resignation as Special Envoy for Haiti, State/D Sherman did a damage control interview. When asked who will replace Daniel Foote, she responded:

“I don’t know that we need a replacement.  In part we had named a special envoy after the assassination of the president of Haiti in the aftermath of the horrible storms and earthquakes and all of the other plights that the Haitian people have had to face – the ongoing confrontation of poverty.  But we have an excellent ambassador in Haiti, Michele Sison, who is a nominee for a future post here in the United States.  We have tremendous faith in her and in her leadership.”

So less than a month after that interview, Ambassador Sison has apparently left Haiti.  Secretary Blinken has also announced the former Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten as Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Port-au-Prince:

MR PRICE: I am happy to reiterate what the Secretary said. We are grateful that Ken Merten, an experienced department hand, will be going to serve in Port-au-Prince as our chargé d’affaires. As you know, Ambassador Sison is – has been nominated for an important post here. She has returned to the United States. And we’re grateful that Ken Merten has accepted the ask that he go serve in this important role.

QUESTION: So does that mean that she’s, like, left?

MR PRICE: That’s right. That’s right.

QUESTION: So she’s back here?

MR PRICE: That’s correct.

Hookay. So who’s going to assume post as the Bureau of Global Talent Management where Ambassador Merten has been posted as “Senior Bureau Official”? His state.gov bio says he was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Global Talent Management in January 2021. He became Senior Bureau Official after DGHR Carol Perez was elevated as Acting M.

Related posts:

Around the FS World: Chargé d’Affaires in Kenya, Phils, Morocco, Moldova, Luxembourg, Bahrain, Timor-Leste

 

 

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Around the FS World: New Faces at ASEAN, Brasilia, Vancouver, Peshawar, New Delhi

 

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:

US Embassy Kabul Evacuates Staff as Taliban Returns to Power in Afghanistan

 

On Thursday, August 12, US Embassy Kabul urged U.S, citizens in in the country to ” to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options.” On August 13: @StateDept Spox on Afghanistan: “This is not a full evacuation. This is not — .” By Saturday, August 14, the Embassy announced that it “has received reports that international commercial flights are still operating from Kabul, but seats may not be available. The U.S. Embassy is exploring options for U.S. citizens who want to depart and who have not been able to find a seat on commercial flights.”
On Sunday, Embassy Kabul issued an August 15  Security Alert saying in part: “The security situation in Kabul is changing quickly including at the airport. There are reports of the airport taking fire and we are instructing U.S. citizens to shelter in place. The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan has suspended consular operations effective immediately. Do not come to the Embassy or airport at this time.”
A revised Security Alert with no time stamp, only dated August 15 now says “The security situation in Kabul is changing quickly including at the airport.  There are reports of the airport taking fire; therefore we are instructing U.S. citizens to shelter in place.
But by Saturday evening, there were already reports that the evacuation of US diplomats from Embassy Kabul was underway. Early on Sunday morning, media reports that Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has left the country reportedly for Tajiskistan with a third unnamed country as destination. According to reports, Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will reportedly lead Afghanistan’s interim government.
CDA Ross Wilson has reportedly left the US Embassy Kabul and is now “stationed at Kabul airport.”

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EEOC: @StateDept Liable For Supervisor’s Harassment of Pregnant Subordinate at US Mission/UNVIE

Via EEOC: Cecille W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 2019001540 (Aug. 19, 2020).
Sex Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Found.  Complainant, an Assistant Public Affairs Officer, filed a formal complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against her on the basis of sex (pregnancy) when her work responsibilities were altered; she received written performance counseling; and she was subjected to a hostile work environment, including receiving inappropriate comments and being excluded from meetings and emails.  On appeal, the Commission found that Complainant was subjected to discrimination and harassment as alleged.  The record showed that Complainant’s work duties were altered due to her pregnancy, and the Agency incorrectly concluded otherwise.  Complainant’s supervisor specifically stated that she could not supervise Complainant if Complainant was pregnant, and Complainant then ceased performing tasks that were under the supervisor’s purview.  The Agency also excluded Complainant from certain weekly meetings at the supervisor’s request.  The Agency conceded that Complainant was subjected to harassment based on sex that affected a term or condition of her employment.  The Commission found that the Agency was liable for the harassment.  The Commission noted that the Agency could not use an affirmative defense because Complainant’s changed work duties constituted a tangible employment action.  Furthermore, even if there were no tangible employment actions, the Agency failed to take prompt and effective action when it failed to fully remove the responsible management official from supervisory authority over Complainant.  The Agency was ordered, among other things, to investigate Complainant’s claim for compensatory damages, and reinstate Complainant’s assignments.  Cecille W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 2019001540 (Aug. 19, 2020).
This Assistant Public Affairs Officer’s EEO case was investigated by the State Department (that would be S/OCR).
“The Agency concluded that Complainant failed to prove that the Agency subjected her to discrimination or harassment as alleged.”
BUT.
The EEOC found that the Complainant “has proven that she was discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex as alleged.”
The Commission concluded that “Based on a thorough review of the record and the contentions on appeal, including those not specifically addressed herein” and reversed the Agency’s final decision.
It also remanded the case to the State Department for further processing in accordance with its decision and remedial actions ordered to include among other things, complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages, disciplinary actions against responsible management officials, and a requirement of “no less than eight (8) hours of appropriate in-person or interactive training to the management officials involved in this case regarding their obligations under Title VII with special emphasis on harassment and responding to claims of harassment.”‘
Note that EEOC cases have randomly assigned pseudonyms which replace Complainants’ names when decisions are published to non-parties and the Commission’s website.
Excerpts:

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as an Assistant Public Affairs Officer (APAO), FS-04, at the Agency’s U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, Austria.

Complainant identified her first-level supervisor (S1), a Public Affairs Officer (PAO), as the individual who discriminated against and subjected her to a hostile work environment.

Complainant stated that over a series of days in early October 2017, following S1’s miscarriage, S1 sent Complainant Facebook messages discussing S1’s miscarriage, desire to curtail, and disappointment with how she felt that Complainant was treating her. Complainant averred that prior to October 2017, she and S1 were friends. However, S1 informed Complainant that she could no longer supervise her following her miscarriage and Complainant’s pregnancy.
[…]
On October 30, 2017, Complainant and S1 participated in mediation. Following the mediation, the mediator expressed concern that due to personal circumstances, S1 was hypersensitive to remarks and interaction with Complainant. The mediator stated that the it was “clear that [S1] rationalized her decisions as business appropriate and not based on personal situations.” The mediator added that S1’s remarks and the timing of events made it clear that S1 wanted to minimize contact with Complainant, however, it “look[ed] on face value as an effort to remove [Complainant] from places [S1] is attending and appears to lessen the exposure of [Complainant] to people and meetings she attended for over a year and a half.”

On November 3, 2017, management officials counseled S1, stating that they did not believe that S1 could properly carry out her supervisory responsibilities if she minimized direct contact with Complainant. Management officials informed S1 that excluding Complainant from Senior Staff meetings and removing her from the Senior Staff distribution list was inappropriate. On November 6, 2017, Complainant informed Human Resources officials that she was removed from her social media duties and inquired about what options were available.

On November 15, 2017, the Chargé d’Affaires informed Complainant that she wanted Complainant to attend Senior Staff meetings but did not feel the same way about the PAS meeting. She acknowledged that Complainant was experiencing a very difficult situation, stating “we know it is a bad situation and we want to, and are trying, to find a solution.” On the following day, Complainant informed the Chargé d’Affaires and S2 that the daily situation was worsening and complained of minimal communication from S1 and uncertainty about her portfolio because S1 outsourced areas of her portfolio. Complainant added that S1 did not talk to her, make eye contact, or provide information. In response, the Chargé d’Affaires informed Complainant that “if a simple solution existed, it would have been found and acted upon immediately.” She assured Complainant that she was involved in daily meetings and discussions to find a solution.

On November 20, 2017, Agency officials informed Complainant that her rater would be changed from S1 to S2. Further, coordination between Complainant and S1 would be conducted through email. Finally, Complainant would continue to attend Senior Staff meetings.

On November 30, 2017, Complainant reported that S1 remained in a position “where she is exercising biased supervision and decision-making over my work.”

On December 13, 2017, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against her on the basis of sex (pregnancy) when:

1. On October 15, 2017, Complainant’s work responsibilities were altered;

2. In October 2017, Complainant received written performance counseling; and

3. Complainant was subjected to a hostile work environment, characterized by, but not limited to inappropriate comments and being excluded from meetings and emails.

[…]
The Agency has already conceded in its final decision that Complainant established the first four elements of her prima facie hostile work environment case. The Agency held that Complainant failed to establish that it was liable for the hostile work environment, as it had established an affirmative defense. However, with respect to vicarious liability, element (5), the affirmative defense is not available to the Agency because we have found that S1’s actions culminated in a tangible employment action, changed worked duties.

Moreover, even if there was no tangible employment action, we find that the Agency failed to take prompt and effective action when it was notified of S1’s harassment of Complainant. While we acknowledge that the Agency initiated an informal investigation, counseled S1, and instituted a “carve-out” for evaluation purposes, we find that these actions were insufficient to meet the Agency’s full responsibility to take appropriate corrective action. ROI, at 500-501, 548-549, 599- 600, 621-623. Specifically, the Agency failed to fully remove S1 from supervisory authority over Complainant. According to counseling notes, it was S1 who stated that she did not want to rate Complainant and Agency officials initially encouraged S1 to work with Complainant despite the Agency’s contention that it did so at Complainant’s request. ROI, at 538-540. For example, on November 3, 2017, the Agency counseled S1 regarding her supervision of Complainant and instructed S1 to “provide regular guidance and coaching to help her develop professionally.” Id. at 538. The record further shows that S1 still exercised some level of control over Complainant’s work beyond November 2017 when the Agency changed Complainant’s rater.

For example, S2 “counseled [S1] to let Complainant know if there was action she should be taking that she was not” in December 2017. ROI, at 554. Even in January 2018, S1 continued to email Complainant in a supervisor capacity. Id. at 313-314. The record reflects that although S1 was removed from completing Complainant’s rating, S1 continued to harass Complainant. Complainant indicated that she reported the harassment, but it continued. Taking only some remedial action does not absolve the Agency of liability where that action is ineffective. Logsdon v. Dep’t of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120081287 (Apr. 23, 2009).

The Agency asserted that it further took detailed and effective action when Complainant was offered an alternative position, which she declined, as a solution to her concerns. However, remedial measures should not adversely affect the complainant and Complainant viewed the offer as punitive. Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors, EEOC Notice No. 915.002 (June 18, 1999), at 28-9. If it is necessary to separate the parties, then the harasser should be transferred (unless the complainant prefers otherwise). Id. The Agency did not move S1, despite requests from Complainant and S1, until April 2018 while Complainant was on maternity leave. We find that the Agency failed to take prompt and effective action. Accordingly, we find that the Agency is liable for S1’s harassment of Complainant. For the foregoing reasons, we find that Complainant has proven that she was discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex as alleged.

CONCLUSION Based on a thorough review of the record and the contentions on appeal, including those not specifically addressed herein, we REVERSE the Agency’s final decision and REMAND the matter to the Agency for further processing in accordance with this decision and the ORDER below.

ORDER The Agency is ordered to take the following remedial action:

1. Within ninety (90) calendar days from the date this decision is issued, the Agency shall conduct a supplemental investigation of Complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages. The Agency is directed to inform Complainant about the legal standards associated with providing compensatory damages and give Complainant examples of the types of evidence used to support a claim for compensatory damages. Complainant shall be given 30 calendar days from the date she receives the Agency’s notice to provide all supporting evidence of her claim for compensatory damages. Within thirty (30) calendar days of the date the Agency receives Complainant’s submission, the Agency shall issue a new final decision determining Complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages, together with appropriate appeal rights.

2. Within ninety (90) days of the date this decision is issued, provide no less than eight (8) hours of appropriate in-person or interactive training to the management officials involved 9 2019001540 in this case regarding their obligations under Title VII with special emphasis on harassment and responding to claims of harassment. The Commission recommends that the Agency review the following EEOC publication: Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors (June 18, 1999).

3. The Agency shall consider taking disciplinary action against the responsible management officials. The Commission does not consider training to be disciplinary action. The Agency shall report its decision to the compliance officer. If the Agency decides to take disciplinary action, it shall identify the action taken. If the Agency decides not to take disciplinary action, it shall set forth the reason(s) for its decision not to impose discipline. If any of the responsible management officials have left the Agency’s employ, the Agency shall furnish documentation of their departure date(s).

4. Within thirty (30) days of the date this decision is issued, the Agency shall reinstate Complainant’s assignments changed by S1 and remove all documentation and references to the October 2017 written performance counseling from all personnel records, including Complainant’s official personnel files.

5. The Agency shall post a notice in accordance with the Posting Order below. The Agency is further directed to submit a report of compliance, as provided in the statement entitled “Implementation of the Commission’s Decision.” The report shall include supporting documentation verifying that the corrective action has been implemented.

Read the full case here: Cecille W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 2019001540 (Aug. 19, 2020).

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@StateDept Designates WHA/EX Christopher Del Corso as Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Seoul

 

Christopher Del Corso, a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor has assumed his current position as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at U.S. Embassy Seoul on July 16, 2021. Prior to this posting, Mr. Del Corso served in Washington, DC as the Executive Director for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and before that, he was the Minister Counselor for Management Affairs and acting Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Seoul.
Mr. Del Corso succeeds SFSO Rob Rapson who was Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at U.S. Embassy Seoul since January 20, 2021 (Rapson is retiring after over three decades in the Foreign Service).  Immediately prior to being A/CDA, Mr. Rapson served as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Seoul, 2018-2021 and was Political Minister Counselor and acting Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Tokyo, 2015-2018.
Also on July 16, Seoul’s Consul General Linda E. Daetwyler was designated as Acting Deputy Chief of Mission.

Related items:

US Mission Japan: SFSO Raymond Greene Assumed Duties as Chargé d’Affaires a.i

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. DS

 

On July 17, SFSO Raymond Greene assumed duties as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy Tokyo. A brief bio below via US Mission Japan:

Raymond Greene assumed duties as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, U.S. Embassy Tokyo on July 17, 2021. Prior to this assignment, he was the Deputy Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Mr. Greene is a member of the State Department’s Senior Foreign Service and has spent his entire 25-year career advancing U.S. diplomatic, economic, and security engagement with the Indo-Pacific region. In Washington, Mr. Greene was Director for Japan and East Asian Economic Affairs at National Security Council and Director of the Office of Economic Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. In the latter capacity, Mr. Greene was elected as Chairman of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s Economic Committee.

Overseas, Mr. Greene served as U.S. Consul General in Chengdu, China and Okinawa, Japan. Earlier assignments included Chief of the Political-Military Affairs Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Deputy Chief of the Political Section at AIT Taipei, and as a political officer in Tokyo and Manila. Mr. Greene was the first Baker-Kato Diplomatic Exchange Fellow at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. He also was assigned as a State Department Faculty Advisor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Greene holds a B.A. (Government/Japanese) and M.P.M. (International Security and Economic Policy) from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the recipient of the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, the Ryozo Kato Award for Advancing the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the Friendship Medal of Diplomacy (Taiwan), and several State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards. Before joining the State Department, Mr. Greene was a researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC and spent a year in Yokohama on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. Mr. Greene speaks Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Mr. Greene is married to the former Yawen Ko.

According to Politico, Rahm Emanuel, the former congressman, White House chief of staff, political adviser, commentator, author, “sender of revenge fish and controversial two-time Chicago mayor is poised” to be President Biden’s pick as ambassador to Tokyo. A White House official cautioned in late June that, “no one is final until they’re announced.”

 

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Acting EUR A/S Philip Reeker to Serve as Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy London

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Grazie — DS

On July 15, the State Department announced the appointment of the Acting Assistant Secretary for EUR Philip Reeker as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim at the US Embassy in London.

Ambassador Philip T. Reeker will serve as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim, at the Embassy of the United States of America to the Court of St. James’s, as of August 1, 2021. A career diplomat with the rank of Minister Counselor, Ambassador Reeker is currently the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Prior to leading the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Ambassador Reeker was Civilian Deputy and Policy Advisor to the Commander of U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, and from 2008-2011 he was the U.S. Ambassador to North Macedonia.

The United States has no closer Ally than the United Kingdom, and Ambassador Reeker is dedicated to continuing to advance this special relationship.

Ambassador Reeker has served as Acting A/S for EUR since March 2019.With him off to London, who will mind the EUR shop? Biden’s nominee for EUR Karen Erika Donfried was announced in spring; her nomination received by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 29, 2021. She is scheduled to have her confirmation hearing on July 20. Calculation must be that Dr. Donfried will get confirmed before the Senate’s August recess.
The current CDA for Embassy London Yael Lempert became Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. in January 2021 when Woody Johnson left post. Lempert previously took up her assignment as Deputy Chief of Mission in London in January 2019.  These are typically three year assignments, so her successor as DCM would not have been expected to arrived in London before January 2022.  Lempert is reportedly leaving post in two weeks.  She previously worked at the National Security Council during President Obama’s second term. She has also been the subject of attacks in the media for that tenure.
During Secretary Blinken’s May visit in London, he said, “…I’m particularly grateful to Yael Lempert for her extraordinary leadership of this mission. We’ve been colleagues for a long time. I’m grateful to have you here at this time.”

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