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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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State/OIG: US Embassy Iceland Focuses on “Rebuilding Staff Morale” Following Pol Ambo’s Tenure

 

State/OIG conducted its inspection of the US Embassy in Iceland from March 15 to June 28, 2021. That’s about three months since Trump’s political ambassador had left post. The report says “Despite several months having elapsed since his departure, OIG found at the time of the inspection that embassy staff were still recovering from what they described as a threatening and intimidating environment created by the former Ambassador.”
Surely, the mothership knew what was happening in Reykjavik from 2019-2021? No? But State/OIG says that the relationship became “so strained at one point during his tenure that the then-Undersecretary for Political Affairs instructed the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) to work directly with the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure proper management of the bilateral relationship.”
Oh, dear! Is this the same P (and D) who did their song and dance during the IO debacle?
State/OIG did not undertake this inspection until March 2021. We have not been able to find Iceland on its Work Plans for 2019-2020, 2020-2021, or 2021-2022. Previous to this report, we have been able to find one other report on Iceland dated February 2011. Makes one wonder why the OIG only inspected post on March 2021 and not earlier. We should add that posts are typically inspected once every five years, although that five year gap doesn’t seem to be happening anywhere anymore.
The thing though– State/OIG only inspects a small portion of overseas posts every year. We know this post is not a unique case but for posts not inspected earlier this year, whatever happened in the previous 2-3 years will be stale bread except in government corridors and nightmares.
At the time of the inspection, Embassy Reykjavik’s authorized staff included 16 U.S. direct hire staff (including 3 who worked for DOD), 55 locally employed (LE) staff, and 1 eligible family member.
Via State/OIG:

(U) The Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim (Chargé), a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, arrived at Embassy Reykjavik for a temporary duty assignment on January 24, 2021, 4 days after the departure of the former Ambassador. Previously, the Chargé served as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from 2017 to 2020, serving as Chargé and acting Representative for the first 2 years. His career also included tours of duty as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Department and Director of the Department’s Operations Center.
[…]
(U) Embassy Leadership Focused on Rebuilding Staff Morale and Normalizing Embassy Operations

(U) OIG found that the Chargé and DCM were focused on rebuilding staff morale and normalizing embassy operations following the former Ambassador’s tenure, a noncareer appointee who served from June 2019 to January 2021. Despite several months having elapsed since his departure, OIG found at the time of the inspection that embassy staff were still recovering from what they described as a threatening and intimidating environment created by the former Ambassador. For example, staff reported to OIG multiple instances in which the former Ambassador had threatened to sue Department officials and embassy staff who expressed disagreement with him, questioned his wishes, or were perceived to be “disloyal” to him. In addition, many employees reported to OIG that the former Ambassador threatened reprisal against employees who communicated with Department officials in Washington while conducting their official duties.

(U) During the inspection, OIG found that the Chargé and DCM were modeling leadership and management principles in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 to establish a positive, inclusive, and supportive tone for the embassy. In interviews and questionnaires, embassy staff consistently noted the positive and supportive work environment the Chargé and the DCM fostered, following the departure of the former Ambassador. Staff cited the leadership team’s care and support for both U.S. direct-hire and LE staff, their open and inclusive approach, and empowerment of and trust in staff members to do their jobs, consistent with 3 FAM 1214b. For example, the Chargé held a town hall on his first day emphasizing a return to normal operations. In addition, the DCM contacted the Regional Medical Officer/Psychologist, based in London, to help assess morale and develop actions to address employee concerns. 4

(U) Execution of Foreign Policy Goals and Objectives (U) At the time of the inspection, OIG found the embassy was focused on rebuilding its relationship with the Government of Iceland following a deterioration of that relationship under the former Ambassador, which became so strained at one point during his tenure that the then-Undersecretary for Political Affairs instructed the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) to work directly with the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure proper management of the bilateral relationship. This action attempted to mitigate the negative impact of the former Ambassador’s frequent failure to respect diplomatic protocol or to coordinate with the Icelandic Government on policy initiatives and press statements touching on sensitive defense-related subjects. For example, the former Ambassador’s post on the embassy’s Facebook page indicated that the United States was investing more than $170 million on various projects and programs in Iceland, as part of a long-term plan to strengthen U.S.-Icelandic cooperation. This and other uncoordinated statements by the former Ambassador generated public controversy in Iceland.

(U) Upon his arrival in January 2021, the Chargé met with senior government officials to improve the diplomatic engagement between the embassy and the Icelandic Government, consistent with his responsibilities under 3 FAM 1427 and 2 FAM 111.1-2 to promote cordial relations with the host country. OIG noted that the public statements issued by senior Icelandic Government officials, both when the Chargé arrived and following his introductory meetings with senior government officials, reflected the host government’s appreciation for the restoration of respect for diplomatic protocol and procedure in the embassy’s conduct of the bilateral relationship.
[…]
(U) Local Compensation Plan Did Not Comply With Icelandic Labor Law (U) The embassy’s local compensation plan21 did not fully reflect Icelandic prevailing wage rates and compensation practices, as required by 3 FAM 7512.3. Specifically, the local compensation plan did not follow the collective bargaining agreement22 applicable to Icelandic employees regarding the standard work week, annual leave, the transfer of leave rights between employers, and standby shift rates. In addition, OIG found that the embassy had not provided annual increases in the summer and winter and salary supplements since 2009 despite these benefits being required by the collective bargaining agreement. Standards in 3 FAH-2 H131.3a(1) require embassies to implement a local compensation plan and review it at least annually. OIG found the embassy told the Bureau of Global Talent Management’s Office of Overseas Employment (GTM/OE) of its concerns with the local compensation plan in its 2019 Local Compensation Questionnaire submission.23
[…]
(U) Embassy Did Not Conduct Seismic Evaluations for Leased Residences (U) Embassy Reykjavik did not conduct seismic safety assessments for 11 of its 15 leased residential units, as required by Department standards. The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) lists Iceland in zone 4, which is considered a very high seismic zone. In 2018, OBO performed a seismic assessment of the embassy’s residences. This report was delivered to Embassy Reykjavik in November 2020. The embassy has since replaced 11 residences, none of which have been assessed by an OBO-approved structural engineer, as required in 15 FAM 252.6f. According to embassy staff, the embassy did not take immediate action in November 2020 due to other priorities assigned by the former Ambassador. The embassy liaised with OBO on establishing a local contract for seismic assessments but had not completed the work by the end of the inspection. Leasing properties without performing seismic safety assessments poses significant risk to the life and safety of occupants.

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CA Appointment Eligible Family Members Subject to Suitability Review Determination

 

The State Department made an administrative change to 3 FAM 8210 to add supplementary guidance on the Suitability and Security Clearance Determinations process in 3 FAM 8215.1. It now includes suitability determination requirement for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) working for Consular Affairs.
3 FAM 8215  Suitability and Security Clearance Determinations
3 FAM 8215.1  Suitability Determination
(CT:PER-1063;   09-14-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to Appointment Eligible Family Members Only)

a. In all cases, individuals to be appointed under a family member appointment will be subject to appropriate investigation to determine suitability for employment.
b. Except as noted in c. below, in the event that information is developed that raises a question of suitability for employment, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) will refer the case to the Personnel Review Panel (as established under 3 FAM 2150), which will make a suitability determination as to whether an individual may be appointed under a family member appointment.
c.  In all cases, individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program will be subject to a suitability determination by a Suitability Review Panel (SRP), as stipulated in 3 FAM 2215.1a.

3 FAM 2215.1  Suitability Review Panel
(CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to all Foreign Service applicants)

a. A Suitability Review Panel (SRP) makes suitability determinations for appointment of career candidates in the Foreign Service, for the reappointment of a career member to the Foreign Service, for the recall of a career member to the Foreign Service (except in cases where the recalled individual is also the subject of a Presidential or other political appointment), for Civil Service candidates converting to the Foreign Service and for limited non-career appointments to the Foreign Service.  A Suitability Review Panel does not make determinations for family member appointments, except for individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program.  A Suitability Review Panel will also review the candidacies of any current Foreign Service employee converting to another skill code if derogatory information arises prior to the candidate’s conversion.  Except as provided below, candidates, except those applying for a position with Diplomatic Security (DS), who have been found suitable for appointment by a SRP within the previous two years do not require a new suitability review.

b. After the medical examination clearance has been issued, and the background investigation, which is not more than three years old, is received, a candidate’s entire file (except the medical records) is reviewed and evaluated by a SRP to determine the candidate’s suitability for the Foreign Service under the standards set forth in 3 FAM 2215.  DS will re-submit applicants to the qualifications panel (3 FAM 2216.2-3) if they are found to have falsified information on their application or are found to have other disqualifying factors.

c.  Suitability Review Panels for the Department of State must consist of two or more assessors from the Board of Examiners, or, in the case of Diplomatic Security or Medical Specialist candidates, one of the assessors may be a subject matter expert appointed to the Suitability Review Panel (SRP) by the Director of GTM/TAC/BEX.  In the case of a candidate for appointment to the Senior Foreign Service, the SRP must consist of at least three Assessors who are career Senior Foreign Service Officers (FSO).  The majority of the officers on the Senior Foreign Service Officer SRP, including the panel chairperson, must be career Senior FSOs.

d. Candidates found suitable for appointment will have their names forwarded to the Office of the Registrar in the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM/TAC/REG).  Prior to appointment in the Foreign Service, the Department of State may, at its discretion, elect to review once again the candidate’s suitability for employment should information become available that the Suitability Review Panel had not previously had access to that raises questions about the Suitability Review Panel’s original suitability determination.

e. The candidacy of any candidate who is not found suitable for appointment by a Suitability Review Panel will be terminated and the candidate will be informed of the termination and the right to appeal in writing.  An unfavorable suitability determination for a Foreign Service candidacy, other than a candidacy for a Diplomatic Security position based solely on reasons found in 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15), terminates other pending Foreign Service candidacies.  An unfavorable suitability determination for a Diplomatic Security candidacy solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15) may not necessarily terminate other pending, non-DS Foreign Service candidacies.

f.  Candidates, other than candidates for Diplomatic Security positions whose candidacy was terminated solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15), not found suitable for appointment by a Suitability Review Panel are ineligible to apply for Foreign Service positions for a period of two years from the date of the unfavorable suitability determination.  Candidates for Diplomatic Security positions whose candidacy was terminated solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15) will remain eligible to apply for non-Diplomatic Security positions.

3 FAM 2215.2  Suitability Standards for Appointment to the Foreign Service
3 FAM 2215.2-1  Applicability
(CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(State/USAID)
(Applies to all Foreign Service Applicants)

This section applies to all applicants for employment in the Foreign Service.  This section does not apply to family member appointments, except for individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program.  Standards of conduct for continued employment in the Foreign Service are found in 3 FAM 4130.

Read more: 3 FAM 2210 Appointments (CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(Office of Origin:  GTM/TAC)

Diplomatic Security Gets Career DSS Special Agent Carlos F. Matus as New DS/PDAS and DSS Director

 

Last month, the State Department named career DSS agent Carlos F. Matus as PDAS for Diplomatic Security  (DS) and director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). Below is his official bio:

Carlos F. Matus, a career Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agent and DSS senior official, was named principal deputy assistant secretary (PDAS) of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), U.S. Department of State, on September 13, 2021. He previously served as acting DSS director.

As PDAS and DSS director, Matus is responsible for the operations of the most widely represented law enforcement and security organization in the world, with offices in 33 U.S. cities and 275 U.S. diplomatic posts overseas. DSS is the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State and is responsible for protecting U.S. diplomacy and the integrity of U.S. travel documents.

Matus, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, joined DSS as a special agent in 1987. Throughout his 34 years of service, Matus has served around the world at U.S. embassies in Honduras, Panama, Afghanistan, Austria, Haiti, Pakistan, Brazil; DSS field offices in Washington, D.C., and Miami; and at DSS headquarters.

Among his most recent career highlights, Matus served as director of protective intelligence investigations, 2016; senior regional security officer, U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan, 2016-17; deputy assistant secretary for the high threat programs directorate, 2017-19; and acting deputy assistant secretary for threat investigations and analysis until he assumed the position of acting DSS director in 2020.

Matus is an individual recipient of multiple State Department meritorious and superior honor awards. The U.S. Marine Corps recognized him twice as Regional Security Officer of the Year for D Company. Most recently, he received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive.

Before joining DSS, Matus graduated from the University of Maryland and the Inter-American Defense College. He holds a Master’s degree in Security and Hemispheric Defense from the University of Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina. More information about Carlos Matus is available at: https://www.state.gov/biographies/carlos-f-matus/

In 2016, we published  an submitted letter from a Diplomatic Security employee about the lack of diversity in the top ranks of the bureau leadership (see Dear @JohnKerry: One of Your Foggy Bottom Folks Is Asking — Is This Diversity?).   At that time, there were two senior positions held by female officers and one by an African-American at the bureau.
Today, the leadership at Diplomatic Security remains overwhelmingly male and white, with but ONE senior female official occupying the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Director Training Directorate. There are currently , three African Americans in its leadership positions including the assistant secretary. Given that Diplomatic Security is one of the top five bureaus with the highest number of sexual harassment complaints, you’d think that the bureau would work harder in growing the ranks of senior female officials in its leadership ranks.
It looks like that’s not happening anytime soon. So will Diplomatic Security ever appoint a senior female agent anywhere besides the International Programs Directorate or the Training Directorate? (see Inbox: A belief that there’s no place for a female in Diplomatic Security agent ranks especially at HTPs?).  As DSS Director? Or as a Principal Deputy? No?
Well, now, we’d like to know why. Why are female officials hard to find in the bureau’s senior leadership ranks?

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Related posts:

EEOC Case: Middle Eastern FSO Alleges Discrimination, Raises “Unconscious Bias” Over Non-Promotion

 

EEOC Appeal No. 2020000559
At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant was employed by the Agency as a Foreign Service (“FS”) Officer, FS-04, (Political) at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey.

On December 7, 2018, Complainant filed a formal EEO complaint alleging discrimination by the Agency on the bases of race (Middle Eastern), national origin (Iranian, naturalized U.S. Citizen), and religion (Muslim) when, on or about August 31, 2019, she learned that she was not promoted by the 2018 Foreign Service Selection Boards.
[…]

The record includes, but is not limited to, the following relevant facts:

Promotions for FSOs, such as Complainant, are determined by Selection Boards (also referred to as the Promotion Board or “Board”) comprised of volunteer reviewers from within the Agency. In 2018, it was established Agency practice for all reviewers to undergo two days of training on relevant software, and how to impartially evaluate an employee based on their awards and duty posts from the past five years, the employee’s electronic Official Personnel Files (“eOPF” or “file”), and their EER (review). The volunteers are instructed to recuse themselves if they feel they are unable to review a file objectively. During the 2018 training, the volunteers were briefed by the Agency’s Office of Civil Rights about diversity with a focus on “ensuring the Board applied the Department’s EEO principles in its deliberations and decisions.”
[..]

The promotion review was on a “class-wide basis,” so all FS-04 candidates within the same specialty were reviewed by the same Board. Thus, the Board reviewing Complainant and other FS-04s was responsible for reviewing more than 875 files within 10 weeks, or 34 to 40 employee
files per day. When asked to provide affidavits for the instant complaint, none of the panelists recognized Complainant’s name or specifically recalled the contents of her employee file.


Complainant maintains that she was qualified and deserving of a promotion based on her accomplishments, and submits copies of her EERs from 2011 to 2018, a Superior Honor Award
(2011), a Letter of Commendation (2012), two Meritorious Honor Awards (2016 and 2018) and the highest language score among her cohort of Turkish language students (2017) and service above grade in three out of four assignments. While Complainant concedes, “I do not have information from which I can assess whether my performance was superior to those selected,” Complainant asserts that her “track record in multiple positions senior my grade, my awards, and my EERs, I am on par with those promoted.”

Complainant contends that, at the time of her 2018 non-selection, “unconscious bias” was a known obstacle to achieving awards and promotions within the Agency’s selection process. She states that at least two affinity groups, Executive Women at State and Balancing Act, had been trying to raise the issue of unconscious bias with respect to the scoring process. The Union surveyed employees in 2017 and identified strong support for removing names from EERs (reviews). Regarding this survey, Complainant states that “individuals like me, with different ethnically identifiable names, almost unanimously found fault with the Agency’s practice of including names in the EERs.”
[..]

Significantly, Complainant argues that the Agency, in both investigating and deciding her case, disregarded her allegations of “unconscious bias,” instead applying a disparate treatment analysis to her allegations. It is clear from the record that Complainant was attempting to raise a disparate impact claim, as she repeatedly clarified in her affidavit that she did not believe the Panel intentionally discriminated against her, instead, describing herself as the victim of unconscious bias as a result of the Agency practice of promotion boards knowing the names of the candidates they were reviewing.

Complainant challenges the Agency’s policy of allowing reviewers for FS promotions to see the employees’ first and last names, arguing that a candidate’s name could trigger implicit bias by the reviewer. As evidence of bias against individuals of Middle Eastern dissent, Complainant cites FBI data revealing a 67% increase in hate-based incidents against Muslim Americans in 2015, the highest since the aftermath of September 11, 2001. She also cites the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which, based on media tracking, found an exponential increase in hate-based attacks. She recalls the “Muslim Ban,” where the President called first for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” later modified to “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants. Moreover, Complainant argues that even if all of the panelists did not realize her name was of Middle Eastern origin specifically, “it is impossible for someone not to know that I am from a specific minority group . . . and that I am likely from the Middle East with a high probability that I am Muslim.”
[…]

In the present case, as a result of the Agency’s investigation’s sole focus on disparate treatment, the record is not sufficiently developed to determine whether Complainant can establish even a prima facie case of disparate impact.3 We have presented some of the details of our prior analysis in Gwendolyn G. to provide Complainant and the Agency with guidance in determining the sort of evidence necessary to determine a disparate impact case of this sort. We are vacating the Agency’s final decision and remanding this matter to the Agency for further investigation relevant to the disparate impact claim.

Based on a thorough review of the record and the contentions on appeal, including those not specifically addressed herein, we hereby VACATE the Agency’s Final Decision (with the exception of affirming the timeliness dismissal of promotion claims prior to 2018) and REMAND the matter for further processing in accordance with the following Order.

ORDER
1. Within one hundred and twenty (120) calendar days of the date this decision is issued, the Agency shall conduct a supplemental investigation addressing Complainant’s claim of discrimination under the disparate impact theory and issue an updated ROI to Complainant.
2. Among other things, the updated ROI shall contain the necessary statistical data to allow a decision maker to determine whether Complainant can establish a prima facie case of disparate impact analysis discussed above with respect to individuals with Middle Eastern names, as well as individuals with names that could be mistakenly identified as Middle Eastern. Evidence shall also be gathered with regard to the Agency’s justification for the challenged practice.
3. Within sixty (60) calendar days of the completion of the supplemental investigation, the Agency shall issue a new FAD to Complainant with appeal rights to this Commission. The FAD shall contain a thorough analysis of Complainant’s complaint under disparate impact theory.
The Agency is further directed to submit a report of compliance in digital format as provided in the statement entitled “Implementation of the Commission’s Decision.” The report shall include a copy of the new ROI and FAD with appeal rights, and it shall be submitted via the Federal Sector EEO Portal (FedSEP). See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.403(g).
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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

 

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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