Confirmations: Joseph Donnelly (Holy See), Two Foreign Service Lists

 

 

FOREIGN SERVICE LISTS
2022-01-20 PN480-2 Foreign Service | Nomination for Leon Skarshinski, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 27, 2021.
2022-01-20 PN903 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning John Breidenstine, and ending Michael Lally, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on July 19, 2021.

 

 

CIA’s Interim Report on Havana Syndrome Issued, Have You Read It? #AskMollyHale

 

NYT reports that the C.I.A. has found that “most cases of the mysterious ailments known as Havana syndrome are unlikely to have been caused by Russia or another foreign adversary, agency officials said, a conclusion that angered victims.”  CIA officials describing the interim findings to reporters also say that “A majority of the 1,000 cases reported to the government can be explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress, rather than a sustained global campaign by a foreign power.”
Politico writes that “CIA Director William Burns stands behind the current finding, but made clear the probe continues with an indefinite timeline.
“While we have reached some significant interim findings, we are not done,” Burns said in a statement. “We will continue the mission to investigate these incidents and provide access to world-class care for those who need it. While underlying causes may differ, our officers are suffering real symptoms. Our commitment to care is unwavering.”
A group of Havana Syndrome victims have reportedly released a statement criticizing the report while the investigation is ongoing. We haven’t seen the report. It looks like CIA officials are talking to the media discussing the findings of the interim report but the interim report itself has not been made available for the public to read.

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USCG Almaty on Voluntary Departure For Non-Emergency USG Staff/Family Members

 

On Friday, January 7, 2022, the State Department issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory for Kazakhstan due to COVID-19 and civil unrest. It also announced that the Department approved the voluntary departure of Consulate General Almaty non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of all Consulate General Almaty U.S. government employees.
On Saturday, January 8, US Mission Kazakhstan issued a Security Alert for U.S. citizens in the country announcing the voluntary evacuation of non-emergency USG staff and family members at the Consulate General in Almaty. The Alert also advised U.S. citizens in country to shelter in place if a safe departure is not possible:

The U.S. government has authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members at the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty.  

U.S. citizens in Almaty are advised to shelter in place until safe departure is possible.  Avoid standing next to balconies or windows and stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.  Further, all U.S. citizens in Kazakhstan are advised to avoid crowds or demonstrations.

A nationwide state of emergency and curfew is in place between the hours of 11pm and 7am and will remain in effect until January 19.  Expect security checkpoints controlling access to population centers, public transport disruptions, and limitations on movement throughout the country.  Overland border crossing to neighboring countries may not be possible or safe at this time, and access to fuel may be limited.

Unrest in Almaty continues, and there were reports of gunfire overnight and ongoing direct conflict between armed groups and Kazakhstani government forces. Widespread flight and train disruptions continue, and there are cancellations on both domestic and international routes.  Almaty airport and railway stations are currently closed.  You are advised to check with your airline to confirm your flight and reminded to avoid travel during curfew hours.

Communications services countrywide have been limited and internet restrictions continue.  However, the government of Kazakhstan reports that access to limited news outlets has been restored.  Disruptions to internet access may continue to impact other services such as banking, credit card transactions, and COVID-19 testing.  Coordinate with your medical provider to determine testing availability.

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2021 Holiday Greetings Around the Foreign Service

 

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Turkish Media Reports Arrest of U.S. Diplomat, @StateDept Refutes, Turkey Releases Passport

 

On December 22, Turkey’s Daily Sabah reports that an individual purported to be a U.S. diplomat was arrested in Istanbul:.

“In a written statement from the Istanbul Police Department, it was reported that on Nov. 11, 2021, at around 5 p.m., it was determined that Syrian national R.S., who wanted to go to Germany from Istanbul Airport with a fake passport, tried to go abroad with another person’s passport during the checks at the passport point.

Following an investigation, it was determined that the passport that R.S. used while trying to escape belonged to D.J.K., a diplomat at the U.S. Consulate in Beirut. During the examination of the camera footage, it was noted that the two suspects met in the airport and changed their clothes there and R.S. then received the passport from the American diplomat D.J.K.

In the statement, it was stated that both suspects were taken into custody, and the following information was shared: “During the body search, $10,000 and a diplomatic passport of his own name were found in the envelope from the American citizen D.J.K. Syrian national R.S., who was found trying to exit the country by using fake passports, was one of the persons referred to the judicial authorities. He was released on charges of ‘forgery of official documents.’ The person named D. J. K., an American citizen, was arrested and handed over to prison.”

We should note that there is no U.S. Consulate in Beirut. There is, however, a U.S. Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
On December 23, Daily Sabah has a statement from the State Department refuting that the individual arrested is one of its diplomats:

“We are aware of the detention of a U.S. citizen in Turkey. The individual is not a U.S. diplomat. We are providing appropriate consular services,” a State Department official said but gave no further details.

Later on December 23, Hurriyet Daily News published an image of the U.S. passport of the individual arrested as released by Turkish authorities. The name was redacted but the biographic information and the annotation that “The bearer is a member of the family of …. ” are clearly visible:

Turkish authorities have disclosed the passport of a U.S. citizen who was detained and arrested on the charges of “forging official documents” while reportedly trying to help a Syrian national leave Turkey.

On the first page of the passport, it is seen that the U.S. citizen, identified only by initials D.J.K., was born in Syria in 1988 and received his travel document on May 18, 2021, which is valid until May 17, 2026.

Meanwhile, the U.S. officials denied the allegations that D.J.K. was a U.S. diplomat following reports in the Turkish media that he worked for the U.S. Consulate in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut.

If this is a genuine diplomatic passport, it means that the spouse of the individual arrested is accredited to Lebanon. Diplomatic family members do hold diplomatic passports (as well as regular passports) but their diplomatic status is dependent on the principal, that is the employee’s status and assignment. Diplomatic passports of family members normally carry an annotation such as the one indicated on the passport image released by Turkish authorities.
This passport appears to be a diplomatic passport issued on May 18, 2021. In addition to the annotation, this has a 5-year validity with expiration date of May 17, 2026. U.S. diplomatic passports are typically valid for 5 years; regular passports unless limited by the State Department are normally valid for 10 years. Regular passports also typically do not carry annotations like the one shown in this individual’s passport.
Since the principal in this case was not part of the Turkish charges, we will not publish the name here. We should note however, that the principal appears to be a new employee at State with consular appointment submitted for Senate confirmation just this past summer and confirmed recently via voice vote.
We will likely learn more about this case as it goes forward. Or maybe not. After all, this arrest occurred in Istanbul in November 11, and we’re just hearing of this now, five weeks later. So this was a hush-hush matter until it wasn’t. Makes you wonder what happened, yes?

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Senate Cuts Loose 44 @StateDept/USAID Hostages, Two FS Lists Before Running Out the Door

 

The Senate adjourned for the holiday break early morning Saturday at 4:04am ET. The Senate returns on Monday, January 3, 2022 for the beginning of the 2nd session of the 117th Congress.
Except for Rahm Emanuel (nominee for Japan) and Atul Atmaram Gawande (nominee for USAID), all nominations in this group were confirmed via voice vote. See, it wasn’t hard, was it?
Many more nominees are stuck in super glue in the Senate’s Executive Calendar. Over 50 more are pending in Committee. We don’t know how many will require renominations in January.
We expect that some senators will continue to play the game of hold next year because there are no consequences from voters for these actions. Politico’s Global Insider on December 17 notes that the confirmation mess will continue to grow. Apparently, some nominees were even told by the administration to “lobby for themselves.” What-the-what? Happy holidays and that’s not in$$$ane at all!

AMBASSADORSHIPS: CAREER FOREIGN SERVICE

2021-12-18 PN377 ALGERIA – Elizabeth Moore Aubin, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria.

2021-12-18 PN382 ANGOLA/SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE – Tulinabo S. Mushingi, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Angola, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe.

2021-12-18 PN378 BAHRAIN – Steven C. Bondy, of New Jersey, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

2021-12-18 PN786 BANGLADESH – Peter D. Haas, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

2021-12-18 PN1009 BENIN – Brian Wesley Shukan, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Benin.

2021-12-18 PN911 BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA – Michael J. Murphy, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2021-12-18 PN910 BRUNEI – Caryn R. McClelland, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Brunei Darussalam.

2021-12-18 PN732 THE GAMBIA – Sharon L. Cromer, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of The Gambia.

2021-12-18 PN381 CAMEROON – Christopher John Lamora, of Rhode Island, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cameroon.

2021-12-18 PN937 CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – Patricia Mahoney, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Central African Republic.

2021-12-18 PN417 REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO – Eugene S. Young, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of the Congo.

2021-12-18 PN1033 EQUATORIAL GUINEA – David R. Gilmour, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

2021-12-18 PN733 GUINEA – Troy Damian Fitrell, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea.

2021-12-18 PN379 LESOTHO – Maria E. Brewer, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Lesotho.

2021-12-18 PN873 MOLDOVA – Kent Doyle Logsdon, of Pennsylvania, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Moldova.

2021-12-18 PN939 MOZAMBIQUE – Peter Hendrick Vrooman, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mozambique.

2021-12-18 PN383 SENEGAL/GUINEA-BISSAU – Michael Raynor, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Senegal, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

2021-12-18 PN376 SOMALIA – Larry Edward Andre, Jr., of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Somalia.

2021-12-18 PN897 SRI LANKA – Julie Chung, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

2021-12-18 PN1005 TOGOLESE REPUBLIC – Elizabeth Anne Noseworthy Fitzsimmons, of Delaware, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Togolese Republic.

2021-12-18 PN380 VIETNAM – Marc Evans Knapper, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

AMBASSADORSHIP: CAREER EXECUTIVE SERVICE

2021-12-18 PN734 PARAGUAY – Marc Ostfield, of Pennsylvania, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Paraguay.

AMBASSADORSHIPS: NON-CAREER/POLITICAL APPOINTEES

2021-12-18 PN1029 ARGENTINA – Marc R. Stanley, of Texas, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Argentine Republic.

2021-12-18 PN1225 BELGIUM – Michael M. Adler, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Belgium.

2021-12-18 PN738 COSTA RICA – Cynthia Ann Telles, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Costa Rica.

2021-12-18 PN785 FRANCE/MONACO – Denise Campbell Bauer, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the French Republic, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Principality of Monaco.

2021-12-18 PN774 IRELAND – Claire D. Cronin, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Ireland.

2021-12-18 PN1004 POLAND – Mark Brzezinski, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Poland.

2021-12-18 PN938 SPAIN/ANDORRA – Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Spain, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Principality of Andorra.

2021-12-18 PN958 SLOVENIA – Jamie L. Harpootlian, of South Carolina, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Slovenia.

2021-12-18 PN1226 SWEDEN – Erik D. Ramanathan, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Sweden.

2021-12-18 PN1030 SWITZERLAND/LIECHTENSTEIN – Scott Miller, of Colorado, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Swiss Confederation, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

2021-12-18 PN1058 JAPAN – Rahm Emanuel, of Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Japan.

STATE DEPARTMENT

2021-12-18 PN922 MANAGEMENT – John R. Bass, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management).

2021-12-18 PN384 STATE/IO – Michele Jeanne Sison, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (International Organization Affairs).

2021-12-18 PN616 STATE/PROTOCOL – Rufus Gifford, of Massachusetts, to be Chief of Protocol, and to have the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service.

2021-12-18 PN547 Department of State – Adam Scheinman, of Virginia, to be Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, with the rank of Ambassador.

2021-12-18 PN776 Department of State – Bathsheba Nell Crocker, of the District of Columbia, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador.

2021-12-18 PN781 Department of State – Jack A. Markell, of Delaware, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of Ambassador.

2021-12-18 PN552 Department of State – Christopher P. Lu, of Virginia, to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform, with the rank of Ambassador.

2021-12-18 PN553 Department of State – Christopher P. Lu, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform.

2021-12-18 PN934 Department of State – Mark Gitenstein, of Washington, to be Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

2021-12-18 PN935 Department of State – Laura S. H. Holgate, of Virginia, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.

 

USAID

2021-12-18 PN415 Marcela Escobari, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

2021-12-17 PN874 Atul Atmaram Gawande, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

FOREIGN SERVICE LISTS

2021-12-16 PN726 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Arthur W. Brown, and ending Peter C. Trenchard, which 35 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 22, 2021.

2021-12-16 PN728-1 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Rahel Aboye, and ending Kyra Turner Zogbekor, which 153 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 22, 2021.

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Related post:

 

FSGB: Selection Boards Cannot Rely Almost Exclusively on Discipline Letters For Low-Ranking

 

Via FSGB Case No. 2021-019 | September 28, 2021
Held – Grievant proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the 2020 Foreign Service Selection Board (“FSSB”) committed procedural error in low-ranking him.
Case Summary – Grievant argued that the 2020 FSSB effectively relied only on a discipline letter in his Official Performance Folder (“OPF”) when deciding to identify him for low-ranking, a violation of its Procedural Precepts. While the FSSB also referenced a Developmental Area (“DA”) from his 2018 Employee Evaluation Report (“EER”), grievant argued the FSSB misinterpreted the DA. Moreover, he maintained, the FSSB was required to substantiate the discipline letter and the DA with examples from his evaluations, which it did not do. Grievant argued that the FSSB cannot low-rank him for failing to demonstrate growth without citing examples from his evaluations for the last five years to substantiate its finding, which it failed to do. Grievant asked that the low ranking be rescinded and he be mid-ranked.
The Department of State (“Department”) noted that the discipline letter was correctly included in grievant’s OPF and therefore was appropriately available for review by the FSSB. The FSSB clearly stated in its low-ranking statement (“LRS”) that it had reviewed the past five years of grievant’s evaluations as required by its Procedural Precepts. The FSSB properly linked grievant’s conduct as discussed in the discipline letter to performance standards, skills, and competencies. The FSSB referred to both the discipline letter and the 2018 EER, meeting the standard for specific references established in the FSSB Procedural Precepts. The expectation of professional growth is implicit in the appraisal process and does not require a separate definition. Grievant also failed to place a rebuttal letter into his file although given the opportunity to do so.
The Foreign Service Grievance Board (the “Board”) found that the LRS relied inappropriately on the discipline letter, without the supporting examples from evaluations which are required by its Procedural Precepts. The LRS made a passing reference to the 2018 DA that came from the same rating period as the discipline letter and was not substantiated by examples from relevant EERs as required by the FSSB Procedural Precepts. The LRS inappropriately faulted grievant for failing to demonstrate growth in two specific areas without citing evidence from his OPF. Grievant’s decision not to submit a rebuttal to the discipline letter is irrelevant.
The Board granted the grievance and ordered the Department to rescind the low-ranking and amend grievant’s record to show mid-ranking.
Details:

REDACTED(“grievant”) is an FO-01 Economic Officer employed by the Department of State (the “Department” or the “Agency”) since 1998. He has served at numerous foreign and domestic posts, and by 2018 had earned three Meritorious Service Awards across his 20-year career.

On May 31, 2017, grievant was assigned as Deputy Chief of Mission (“DCM”) to the U.S.Embassy REDACTED (the “post” or the “country”). Upon his arrival grievant became the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim (“CDA”) of the U.S. Embassy at post, and served in that capacity until January 27, 2018 when a new ambassador arrived. During the time grievant was CDA, he appointed his Management Officer (“MO”) as his Acting Deputy Chief of Mission (“ADCM”) upon her arrival at post in August 2017.

Between September 2017 and January 27, 2018 grievant made a series of inappropriate comments and gestures directed at the MO and an office management specialist (“OMS”), persisting even after being advised he was making others uncomfortable. On April 5, 2019, the Department proposed discipline of a seven-day suspension without pay based upon a June 6, 2018 Sexual Harassment Inquiry received from the Office of Civil Rights (“S/OCR”). After receiving grievant’s written and oral submissions in response to the discipline proposal, the Department mitigated the discipline to a five-day suspension in a letter, dated April 6, 2020, which listed nine specifications of inappropriate comments. Consistent with regulation,1 this letter was placed in grievant’s OPF where it will remain until May 2022.
[…]
Grievant does not challenge the presence of the discipline letter in his OPF. However, he argues that the FSSB is barred by its Procedural Precepts from relying solely on a discipline letter in order to low rank him; that it is required to do more than just allude to reviewing the last five years of his evaluations and must instead cite specific examples from those evaluations linked to his alleged inadequacies. He further contends that the FSSB cannot low rank based on a perceived lack of growth in specific skills, absent examples drawn from his evaluations.

Grievant dismisses the Department’s argument that he could have placed a rebuttal letter in his OPF in response to the discipline letter but failed to do so. The right to submit a rebuttal, he insists, is irrelevant to the procedural error committed by the FSSB.
[…]
This Board finds that the Procedural Precepts are clear regarding the standards for taking the serious decision to low rank an employee for good reason. Affirmations cannot replace the specific examples required by the Procedural Precepts. A void in substantiating failure to perform cannot be compensated with specific examples related to positive performance.
[…]
The Board finds that the FSSB misinterpreted the DA. Grievant arrived at post in May 2017, and the OIG investigators came in October 2017. Any adverse findings by the OIG relating to the embassy’s internal management could not logically be attributed to any failing by grievant in those few months.
[…]
The Board acknowledges the gravity of grievant’s conduct and the importance of considering the discipline letter as part of the FSSB process. However, as we recently decided in FSGB Case No. 2021-002 (June 25, 2021) at 21:

The FSSB precepts also sought to protect employees from being sanctioned twice for the same misconduct by prohibiting sole reliance on discipline letters when the FSSB is making decisions about low-ranking.

By relying exclusively on the discipline letter without any substantiating examples from grievant’s evaluations for the past five years, the FSSB has committed procedural error, and has sought to penalize grievant twice for his conduct.

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Note: Depending on the browser you’re using, the FSGB cases may not be available to read online; each record may need to be downloaded to be accessible. With Firefox browser, however, you may select “open with Firefox” if you want to read the case file, or save the file to your computer. Please use the search button here to locate specific FSGB records.

 

 

Around the World in Tweets: Special Envoys, and a Running List For Future Special Envoys

 

 

 

PERHAPS COMING SOON:

 

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@StateDept Fails in FSGB Defense Over Coersive (Unlawful) Curtailment

 

The FSGB found that the State Department committed in prohibited personnel practice (“PPP”) violation of 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(4) against an FS employee stationed overseas when it coerced his curtailment from post. The Board also found that the curtailment in this case failed to comply with 3 FAM 2443.2. This case is horrifying in how carelessly embassy officials can chuck anyone out the airlock.
Also see FSGB: When Voluntary Curtailment Is NOT Truly Voluntary
According to the FSGB ROP, the Department questioned “whether 5 U.S.C § 2302 applies to Foreign Service Officers, because Title 5 of the U. S. Code applies only to Civil Service Employees.15 However, it concludes that, assuming the provision applies, there is no evidence to support the finding of a violation”.
The Board’s decision says “we address the Department’s question of whether Foreign Service Officers are protected against prohibited personnel practices. […] Under Section 105 (b)(2)(B)(4) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, all FS members are free from any personnel practice prohibited by 5 U.S.C. § 2302. […] we find that PPP protections apply to Foreign Service Officers under Section 105 of the FSA.
The oldest executive agency then argued before the Grievance Board that the Senior Regional Security Officer’s alleged statement that “all this would go away,” while putting his hand on the investigatory file, “could have merely meant the file itself would be gone or that the Ambassador’s determination to involuntarily curtail him would be obviated by his decision to voluntarily curtail.”
And get this, the Department concludes that the “vague statement” by the SRSO was not deceitful.”
The Department also argued that grievant has “failed to meet his burden to show that the SRSO knew that his statement was untrue or that he acted with an intent to mislead grievant.”
Oh, lordy!
Then covering all its bases — “even assuming that the statement was deceitful, the Department contends that Section 2302(b)(4) only applies to “competition for employment,” which is limited to hiring and promotions and does not apply to the retention of employment.14  Although curtailment is an assignment, it is not a process of hiring or promotion.”
The Department agreed that “it committed a harmless error of its curtailment procedures.”
It sure wasn’t “harmless” on the affected employee and his family, was it?
The FSGB did not buy it.

It is clear that the Board’s analysis found that the SRSO engaged in deceit. The statute prohibits “deceit or willful obstruction.” While obstruction is defined as willful, the drafters did not see a need to use the adjective with deceit. Deceit is willful; it is not negligent or inadvertent.

The Board includes “deceit” in the footnotes:

26 Black’s Law Dictionary (10th ed, 2014) defines deceit: “1. The act of intentionally leading someone to believe something that is not true; an act designed to deceive or trick. 2. A false statement of fact made by a person knowingly or recklessly (i.e., not caring whether it is true or false) with the intent that someone else will act on it. 3. A tort arising from a false representation made knowingly or recklessly with the intent that another person should detrimentally rely on it.”

On curtailments, the Department notes that “under 3 FAM 2443.2(a), the Chief of Mission (COM) has discretion to determine curtailment when it would be in the best interest of the post. While the COM must follow procedures, there is no evidentiary standard, and the curtailment procedures do not require the same rigor as the disciplinary process.”
The Department then makes a shocking or maybe not really a shocking admission:

“..there were serious allegations against grievant, and the COM was not required to determine whether they were true, but only if the curtailment was in the best interests of the post.”

Wait, what? So anyone could make a claim, state an allegation, anyone could start a rumor, and COM is not required to determine whether they were true? How bonkers is that?
Via Record of Proceedings
FSGB Case No. 2019030 | September 29, 2021

The Department’s MFR seeks reconsideration of the Order on two grounds. The first ground for reconsideration is that the Department claims that the Board committed “clear error” by failing to find evidence of two essential elements of a prohibited personnel practice (“PPP”), in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(4), despite finding that the Department committed a PPP. The missing elements, according to the Department, are – a willful or deliberate deception and a competition for a position. The second basis for reconsideration is that the Department claims that the Board committed “clear error” by conflating the curtailment and discipline procedures when it failed to remand to the Department the question of whether it would have curtailed grievant absent the procedural error by failing to follow the Department’s curtailment regulations.

Grievant, an FS-02 Security Engineering Officer (“SEO”), served as the Deputy Officer in Charge (“DOIC”) of the Department’s Engineering Services Office (“ESO”) at the U.S. Embassy in REDACTED (“post”) from August 2016 to January 18, 2017. His rater was the Officer-in-Charge (“OIC”), and his reviewer was the Senior Regional Security Officer (“SRSO”).

The incident that led to a preliminary investigation of the grievant and, subsequently, an in-depth investigation of him by the Office of Civil Rights (“S/OCR”), is an alleged threat made by grievant at the end of December 2016. On January 10, 2017,1 a supervisee claimed that grievant had made an implied threat of physical violence to him, and the SRSO assigned the Assistant Regional Security Officer (“the ARSO”) to investigate and notified the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (“DS”), Office of Special Investigation (“DS/DO/OSI”). On January 12, post management briefed the Ambassador, who decided to exercise his authority under 16 STATE 27226 to curtail grievant from post. Later that day, January 12, the SRSO, grievant’s reviewing officer, held a meeting with grievant, two Human Resource Officers, and grievant’s rater and told grievant that the Ambassador had decided that he would be involuntarily curtailed if he did not voluntarily curtail, and if he voluntarily curtailed, “all of this,” gesturing to the investigative file, “would go away and it would be as if he had been curtailed for family reasons.”2

But the investigation did not, in fact, “go away.”

On January 14, the ARSO issued an RSO Report, which the Accountability and Suitability Board (“A&SB”), which included the SRSO, discussed that day with the Ambassador. The case was referred to the Department of State’s Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) that same day. On January 16, the Management Counselor prepared a Decision Memorandum (“Decision Memo”) in Support of No-Fault Curtailment, which was sent to the front office. A day later, on January 17, grievant met with the HRO at post and formally accepted a “voluntary curtailment,” and management approved his request that day. On January 18, Grievant curtailed without having been advised of the ARSO’s report or of the referrals to S/OCR and to
DS/DO/OSI.
[…]
GTM/ER proposed to suspend grievant on a single charge of Improper Comments, with three specifications. The Deciding Official (“DO”) sustained only two of these specifications, both dealing with alleged threats. With the dismissal of the third specification, all potential EEO violations were dismissed. The DO reduced the penalty from a two-day to a one-day suspension.”5

Grievant filed an agency-level grievance, alleging that the one-day suspension violated regulations; that his 2017 Employee Evaluation Report (“EER”) contained a falsely prejudicial statement based on the charge; that the RSO Report contained a falsely prejudicial statement that he had been counseled for anger management; that his curtailment was coerced and unlawful under 12 STATE 27212 (“Curtailment of Employee Based on Conduct or Disciplinary Issues”); and that his assignment to a non-supervisory, overcomplement6 position was based on a PPP. The grievance was denied by the Department.

Board found that the Department committed a PPP, in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(4). […]Moreover, even without the PPP finding, the Board found that the curtailment failed to comply with 3 FAM 2443.2, and the Department does not challenge that finding.

[…]
By inducing grievant’s “voluntary curtailment” on an unenforceable assurance, post avoided going through the procedural safeguards of 3 FAM 2443.2, which apply to voluntary curtailments that are initiated at the request of the COM. What the Department does not acknowledge is that the SRSO (importantly, grievant’s reviewing official, the official who had directed the ARSO’s investigation and notified DS/DO/OSI and a member of the A&SB advising the Ambassador) told grievant that if he voluntarily curtailed, it would be “as if he curtailed for family reasons.” That would mean a curtailment under 3 FAM 2443.1 with no prospect of discipline.

The Board denied in full the Department’s Second Motion for Reconsideration and issued six other orders related to back pay, reconstituted Selection Boards, promotion, and interest on back pay.
The Board ordered remedies for violations of 3 FAM 2443.2 and 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(4) , remedies for falsely prejudicial language in Grievant’s EER; attorney’s fees request is held in abeyance until final resolution of the remedies.
The remedies ordered include:

2. The Department shall pay grievant “an amount equal to all, or any part of the pay, allowances, or differentials [including overtime], as applicable, which [he] normally would have earned or received” during the period of 18 ½ months of the remainder of his posting at post, had he not been improperly curtailed, less any amounts he earned through other employment during that period, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 5596(b)(1)(A)(i), 5 C.F.R. 550, Subpart H..

4. The Department shall hold four reconstituted Selection Boards for the years when grievant’s OPF contained the uncorrected 2017 EER.

5. If grievant is promoted by any of the reconstituted SBs, the promotion should beretroactive to the date a promotion would have been implemented by the SB for which it was reconstituted. The Department shall pay the wage differential from the date of any retroactive promotion.

6. The Department shall pay interest on any back pay awards due under this order.

The conduct of these government representatives at this post should be labeled “notoriously disgraceful conduct”. And the State Department should be shamed for defending this type of unacceptable behavior.  Oh, please don’t tell us these people all got promoted!
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FSGB: When Voluntary Curtailment Is NOT Truly Voluntary

 

This is part 1 of two parts we want to post about this specific grievance case. We want to highlight this part of the curtailment process that’s called “voluntary” because it was not a voluntary one, but a “coerced voluntary curtailment”. We have no idea who are the individuals involved in this case, of course, but we are aware of how the so called “voluntary” curtailment has been misused and far from being voluntary in other cases in the past.
The chief of mission was supposed to “ensure that rigorous standards apply to curtailment requests.” Whatever standards were applied in this case could not be called rigorous by any stretch of the imagination. Good grief, the ARSO wrote a false report! As if that was not enough, a supervisor engaged in deceitful behavior. And State basically shrugged its admirable shoulders, and said who cares?
Record of Proceedings
FSGB Case No. 2019030 | September 30, 2020
INTERIM DECISION  (CORRECTED 10/05/2020)

We find here that the procedures for curtailing grievant violated 3 FAM 2443.2. The due process provisions of the regulation were not
followed. Grievant was given an ultimatum to voluntarily curtail, or he would be involuntarily curtailed, when the Ambassador had limited information and the grievant had not been given any of the due process rights outlined in 3 FAM 2443.2 and the guideline cables provided below.
The applicable FAM, 3 FAM 2443.2 Involuntary Curtailment at Request of Chief of Mission, reads:

a. If the chief of mission determines that curtailment of an employee’s tour of duty would be in the best interests of the post [or] the employee, the chief of mission may ask that the employee’s tour of duty be curtailed immediately.

b. If the employee is an employee of the Department of State, the chief of mission should submit a request through the DIRGEN [Director General] channel to the Director General of the Foreign Service requesting curtailment of the employee. The request must:


(1) Include background information on any incidents that support the request;

(2) Confirm that the employee has been informed of the request and the reasons therefore; and

(3) Confirm that the employee has been advised that he or she may submit comments separately.


c. If the employee requests curtailment, the chief of mission should use the DIRGEN channel to:


(1) Inform the Director General of the chief of mission’s support of the employee’s request; and

(2) Explain fully the circumstances that, in the chief of mission’s judgment, justify immediate curtailment.


d. Except in cases of serious misconduct, criminal activities, or actions that have serious security implications, a chief of mission may offer the employee the alternative of submitting a request for immediate voluntary curtailment. If the employee is an employee of another agency, the request should be submitted to [their appropriate officials]. … The same supporting information required in 3 FAM 2443.2 should be used in requesting curtailment.57

According to the Decision Memo, the Ambassador invoked 16 STATE 27226, issued on March 14, 2016, Chief of Mission Instructions Regarding Conduct and Discipline Abroad, to determine that curtailment was necessary in this case. The summary describes the cable as the
first of two issued that date to provide guidance on conduct and discipline issues. The cable notes that COMs have full legal authority for the supervision of all government executive branch employees in that country.

The other memo issued on the same date, 16 STATE 27212, Curtailment of Employees Based on Conduct and Disciplinary Issues (Checklist), provides detailed procedures for handling curtailments. Among the relevant paragraphs are:

Par. 1. Curtailment may include the employee’s immediate departure from post, and can be voluntary or involuntary. As COM, you must ensure that rigorous standards apply to curtailment requests. Curtailments disrupt lives of employees and entail high professional and monetary cost from the Service in terms of lost productivity, service, and frequently, investment in training. Therefore, this authority must be used with judicious care and restraint.

Par. 2. If you, as COM, determine that curtailment of an employee’s tour of duty would be in the best interests of the post [or] the Service … you may request that the employee’s tour of duty be curtailed immediately. Per 3 FAM 2443.2, you should submit a request through the DIRGEN [Director General] channel to the Director General of the Foreign Service. The curtailment cable request must:

o include background information on any incidents that support the request;

o confirm that the employee has been informed of the request and the reasons therefor; and

o confirm that the employee has been advised that he or she may submit comments separately.

..HR strongly encourages post to share the request cable with the employee so the employee has the full report on which he/she can send comments.

Par. 3. Except in cases of serious misconduct, … you may offer the employee the option to request immediate voluntary curtailment in lieu of involuntary curtailment. If the employee requests voluntary curtailment, he/she should request immediate curtailment through the HR channel in a message addressed to his/her Career Development Officer (CDO) in HR/CDA (see para. 19 [checklist]). As COM, please ensure that you use the DIRGEN channel to confirm your support, or opposition to, the employee’s request and explain fully the circumstances that justify immediate curtailment.


Par. 13. Curtailments should first be vetted by a management team at post. …. Proper vetting throughout the process then allows the COM to be better able to determine whether to move forward with the curtailment request.


Par. 14. In all cases, the DIRGEN cable must include background information on the incident (s) that supports post’s decision. Except for cases of directed curtailment, the cable must confirm that the COM has discussed the proposed action with the employee and also confirm that he/she may submit separately, either by cable via the DIRGEN channel or email to the DG Direct e-mail address, any comments about the curtailment. HR will not approve any curtailment request that comes without supporting information.

Par. 19. D. [H]as the employee had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the DCM?


Par. 20. As applicable, the above elements should be addressed in a DIRGEN cable. The Department is committed to making the curtailment system work for the good of the Service and our employees, protecting both the authority of management and the rights of employees.

Grievant’s decision to curtail was not truly voluntary. Grievant did not initiate the curtailment. The Ambassador, according to what the RSO and HR told grievant on January 12, had decided that grievant had a choice to either curtail voluntarily or involuntarily. In doing so, he was exercising his right under 3 FAM 2443.2d to give the employee the option of taking a voluntary curtailment in lieu of an involuntary one. Given that ultimatum, the only way to prevent the potential adverse career effect was to choose “voluntary” curtailment. According to grievant, he was also given the inducement that if he chose “voluntary” curtailment, “all this,” which he could reasonably understand to mean any type of charge against him, would be withdrawn. Given the lack of denials, we credit grievant that this statement was made. Yet we know that, on January 14, before the curtailment took effect, the ROI had been closed without action by DS and referred to S/OCR. The case was not going away.

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