Watch Out! Hatch Act Snares HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Other Federal Employees

Posted: 3:38 am ET

 

On July 18, 2016, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced its finding that Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro violated the Hatch Act during a Yahoo News interview on April 4, 2016. According to OSC’s report, Secretary Castro’s statements during the interview “impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official agency business despite his efforts to clarify that some answers were being given in his personal capacity.”

OSC apparently conducted an investigation after receiving a complaint about the interview. The OSC stresses that “federal employees are permitted to make partisan remarks when speaking in their personal capacity, but not when using their official title or when speaking about agency business.” The investigation concludes:

While the Hatch Act allows federal employees, including cabinet secretaries, to express their personal views about candidates and political issues as private citizens, it restricts employees from using their official government positions for partisan political purposes. In passing this law, Congress intended to promote public confidence in the Executive branch by ensuring that the federal government is working for all Americans without regard to their political views. Despite his efforts to clarify that he was speaking only for himself and not as a HUD official when answering political questions, Secretary Castro’s statements impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official government agency business.

OSC’s report can be found here (PDF) or read it below.  Secretary Castro’s response can be found here (PDF).

Take note of these other cases:

#

@StateDept Extends “Ordered Departure” Status for Consulate Adana/Izmir Prov Through July 26, 2016

Posted: 4:33 am ET

 

The State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Turkey:

  • The Department of State extended its March 29, 2016 ordered departure of family members of U.S. Government personnel posted to the U.S. Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province through July 26, 2016.  The Department of State terminated its March 29, 2016 ordered departure declaration for Mugla province. The U.S. Consulate in Adana remains open and will continue to provide all routine consular services.
  • U.S. Government personnel in Turkey remain subject to travel restrictions in the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig.  U.S. citizens should avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.
  • U.S. government employees in Turkey are permitted to leave their residences and hotels, but advised to do so during daylight hours given calls for sustained pro-government rallies in public spaces and the possibility that demonstrations and protests could ensue or turn violent with little notice.
  • The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey.    In light of the July 15 coup attempt and its aftermath, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time.

#

Domestic Assault, Reporting Requirement Under 2 FAM 272, and a Troublesome Comma

Posted: 4:22 am ET

This is a grievance case about a domestic assault, an arrest, and a punctuation:

Grievant is a tenured FP-02 Financial Management Specialist, employed by the Department of State as a Regional Financial Management Officer at the REDACTED at the Executive Office of the REDACTED. He has been employed by the Department since 1997, serving both overseas and domestically.

On June 29, 2013, grievant was arrested in REDACTED on a charge of domestic assault against his wife. Grievant’s former wife reported this arrest to the Department; however, when grievant’s current spouse told authorities that the incident was a misunderstanding, the charges were dropped on July 22, 2013. On August 6, 2013, the Department of Diplomatic Security (DS) obtained a copy of the arrest report and began investigating grievant’s failure to report the incident.

DS issued a Report of Investigation (ROI), dated January 14, 2014 and on December 12, 2014, the Director of the Office of Employee Relations (HR/ERCSD) notified grievant of a proposal to suspend him for a period of five (5) calendar days without pay on a charge of Failure to Follow Policy, citing 12 FAM 272. Grievant submitted a written response to the proposal on February 20, 2015, claiming that he did not realize that he had to report the arrest because the regulation is not clear. In any event, he claimed, the arrest was reported by his ex-wife and the charges were dropped within weeks of the arrest. Finally, he claimed that the penalty was too harsh, in light of his confusion about the mandate. After reviewing grievant’s response, the Deciding Official concluded that grievant knowingly failed to report his arrest immediately after it occurred and that he was on notice of his obligation to report the arrest, both because of the “clarity” of the regulation and because grievant had previously made a mandatory report under this same provision in 2010. In the end, the Deciding Official did not credit the reasons offered by grievant and sustained the charge on April 3, 2015.

Grievant argues that the wording of 12 FAM 272 is “far from clear.” He contends that the Department’s construction of the regulation is unfair because it relies on either removing or ignoring punctuation that totally changes the meaning of the provision.

12 FAM 272 states in pertinent part:

b. Employees must immediately report information of a potentially . . . derogatory nature . . . concerning their . . .

(2) Adverse involvement with law enforcement agencies to include:

(a) Arrests, other than minor traffic violations, for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed, or
(b) Arrests for “driving under the influence” [DUI] or “driving while intoxicated [DWI].

c. Arrests must be reported in a timely fashion (i.e., within 72 hours) and must not be delayed pending the conclusion of any judicial action.

[…]
The Department argues that 12 FAM 272 b should be interpreted to require disclosures by cleared employees of any and all arrests, including two traffic offenses — DUI and DWI. The only exception to this rule of mandatory disclosure, according to the Department, is that an employee is not required to disclose “minor traffic violations for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more is imposed.”

The agency contends that this regulation required grievant to disclose the fact of his arrest for domestic assault because it was not for a minor traffic violation. The Department concedes that “the specifics of 12 FAM 272(b) could be more precisely worded,” and “the wording of 12 FAM 272(b) could be improved,” but insists that grievant had sufficient notice that he was  required to report his arrest. The Department lastly argues that under both sections 272 b and 272 c, grievant should have reported his arrest immediately, that is, within 72 hours of his “adverse involvement with law enforcement.”

Here is the full section of the Foreign Affairs Manual:

12 FAM 272  REPORTING ADVERSE FINANCIAL SITUATIONS AND CERTAIN ARRESTS
(CT:DS-143;   02-12-2009)

a. Employees should use good judgment and discretion in recognizing and avoiding situations and/or behavior that would call into question their judgment, reliability, and trustworthiness to safeguard information and to hold a position of trust and responsibility.

b. Employees must immediately report information of a potentially derogatory nature to the Director, Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) concerning their:

(1)  Wage garnishments, credit judgments, repossessions, tax liens, bankruptcies, and/or intentions to file for bankruptcy; or

(2)  Adverse involvement with law enforcement agencies to include:

(a)  Arrests, other than minor traffic violations, for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed; or

(b)  Arrests for “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated.”

c.  Arrests must be reported in a timely fashion (i.e., within 72 hours) and must not be delayed pending the conclusion of any judicial action.

d. Employees with information they believe may have a bearing on another individual’s eligibility for access to classified information, as listed in 12 FAM 233.2, should report that information to the Director, DS/SI/PSS.

e. Reporting pursuant to this section should be in writing and directed to the Director, DS/SI/PSS, and may be either faxed to (571) 345-3191 or sent by mail to DS/SI/PSS, Attn: Director, 11th floor, SA-20.  Reports may also be emailed to DSDirectorPSS@state.gov.

f.  Cleared contractors must report information listed in paragraphs b, c, and d of this section to the Industrial Security Division (DS/IS/IND).  See 12 FAM 576.4 for additional adverse information reporting requirements.

The FSGB disagrees with the Department interpretation:

The critical language is “[a]rrests, other than minor traffic violations, for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed. . . .” The Department argues that this language should be interpreted as if the second comma were not there. That is, the agency would have us read the provision to require disclosure of: “(a) [All] arrests, other than minor traffic violations for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed. . . .” We find that while this may have been what was intended, the first rule of statutory construction is to give the words of the enactment their plain and ordinary meaning, presumably as punctuated, unless there is a clear contrary intent expressed.
[…]
We conclude that whatever the intent of the drafters, a clear delineation of what arrests are required to be reported was not captured in the language of the section 272 b(2)(a). We also conclude that both parties’ interpretations leave serious questions about which arrests were intended to be disclosed and which ones did not have to be reported.

12 FAM 270 was last updated on March 9, 2015.

Read the FSGB case below:

#

Ex-Fox News Commentator/CIA Impostor Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison For Fraud

Posted: 3:27 am ET

We’ve previously posted about this case here: Ex-Fox News Commentator Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Dents Benghazi Cottage Industry. On July 15, USDOJ announced that Wayne Shelby Simmons was sentenced  to 33 months in prison “for major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.” The sentence also includes three years of supervised release, forfeiture of two firearms and $175,612 in criminal proceeds, and restitution to his victims.

Via USDOJ | CIA Imposter Sentenced to Prison for Fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former Fox News commentator who has falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.  Simmons was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, to forfeit two firearms and $175,612 in criminal proceeds, and to pay restitution to his victims.

“Wayne Simmons is a fraud,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Simmons has no military or intelligence background, or any skills relevant to the positions he attained through his frauds.  He is quite simply a criminal and a con man, and his fraud had the potential to endanger national security and put American lives at risk in Afghanistan.   I want to thank the agents and prosecutors for their efforts on this complicated case.”

“With this sentencing, Simmons now faces the consequences of his criminal activity, deceit, and dishonesty,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “He fraudulently obtained positions with the U.S. government by lying about his previous employment and history, and further, defrauded a victim through a bogus real estate investment scheme. Simmons abused people’s trust for his own selfish gain, and in doing so placed lives at risk and jeopardized national security.”

“Mr. Simmons never worked at CIA and we are pleased that justice was served in this case,” said Dean Boyd, Director of CIA’s Office of Public Affairs.

Simmons pleaded guilty on April 29.  According to court documents, Simmons defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program, in 2009 when he attempted to obtain work with the State Department’s Worldwide Protective Service, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence advisor on the International Security Assistance Force’s Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT).  To obtain these positions and the security clearances they required, Simmons made false statements about his financial, employment, and criminal history, including that he had worked for the CIA, that he had previously possessed a top secret security clearance, and that his prior criminal convictions related to his supposed clandestine work.  In order to obtain the CAAT position, Simmons also lied about the nature of the work he had done just a year earlier with the Human Terrain Systems program, a program from which he had been forced to resign prior to deployment.  The government’s investigation determined that Simmons was never associated with the CIA in any capacity and that during the years he claims to have worked for the agency, he was instead working in a variety of capacities and having various run-ins with the law.  His work activities from 1973-2000 include: defensive back for the New Orleans Saints NFL team, nightclub doorman, manager at a rent-by-the-hour hot tub business, bookie, operator of a limousine business and an AIDS-testing business, mortgage broker, and employment at an anti-graffiti business.  During that time, the defendant was also convicted of state firearms, assault, and gambling charges and federal firearms charges.

Simmons also defrauded an individual victim, identified as E.L., out of $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.  As part of the fraud, Simmons sent E.L. promised monthly disbursements to make it appear as if her funds had been invested as promised and repeatedly lied to her about the whereabouts of her money in order to perpetuate the fraud.  There was never any actual real estate investment project, and Simmons simply spent the funds.

Finally, when Simmons was arrested in this case, he was found to be in possession of two firearms, which he was prohibited from possessing on account of his prior felony convictions.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis, III.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul J. Nathanson and James L. Trump prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1: 15-cr-293.

Click file to read the indictment (PDF) via USDOJ/USAO/Eastern District of Virginia.

This is a guy who was part of the Pentagon’s Retired Military Analysts program whose members, the um… “message force multipliers” were given regular briefings from Donald Rumsfeld, then the secretary of defense. Read the wild story on how this con unraveled: The Plot to Take Down a Fox News Analyst via NYT mag.

 

#

Turkish Military Announces Take Over, Declares Martial Law, @StateDept Advises Amcits to Shelter in Place

Posted: 2:39 pm PT

#

Senate Confirmations: Hall, Silverman, Perez, Pyatt, Silliman, Yovanovitch

Posted: 1:57 am ET

On July 14, the U.S. Senate confirmed the following executive nominations

2016-07-14 PN1264 Lithuania Anne Hall, of Maine, 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 Lithuania.

2016-07-14 PN1374 Kuwait | Lawrence Robert Silverman, of Massachusetts, 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 State of Kuwait.

2016-07-14 PN1423 Chile | Carol Z. Perez, 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 Chile.

2016-07-14 PN1491 Greece | Geoffrey R. Pyatt, 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 Greece.

2016-07-14 PN1492 Iraq | Douglas Alan Silliman, 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 Republic of Iraq.

2016-07-14 PN1493 Ukraine | Marie L. Yovanovitch, of Connecticut, 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 Ukraine.

The following nominees remain pending on the Senate’s Executive Calendar:

STATE DEPARTMENT

Amos J. Hochstein, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources), vice John Stern Wolf.  Mar 10, 2016 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

Peter Michael McKinley, 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 Federative Republic of Brazil.  Jul 14, 2016 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

OVERSEAS PRIVATE INVESTMENT CORPORATION

Nelson Reyneri, of Washington, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for a term expiring December 17, 2018, vice Matthew Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, term expired.  Jun 23, 2016 Placed on the Calendar pursuant to S.Res. 116, 112th Congress.

UNITED STATES ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY

Douglas Barry Wilson, of Delaware, to be a Member of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for a term expiring July 1, 2017, vice Elizabeth F. Bagley, term expired. Jun 10, 2016 Placed on the Calendar pursuant to S.Res. 116, 112th Congress.

EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT

Catherine Ann Novelli, of Virginia, to be United States Alternate Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vice Robert D. Hormats, resigned.  Mar 10, 2016 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

Janet L. Yellen, of California, to be United States Alternate Governor of the International Monetary Fund for a term of five years, vice Ben S. Bernanke, term expired.  Jun 25, 2015 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report.

#

U.S. Embassy Dhaka: Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members of USG Personnel

Posted: 3:39 am ET

On July 10, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Bangladesh and announced the voluntary evacuation of family members of U.S. personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully whether you need to travel to Bangladesh, in light of the latest attack in a series of extremist events.  Effective July 10, 2016, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka.  The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka remains open and will provide all routine consular services.  The U.S. government assesses that the terrorist threat is real and credible.

bg-map

On July 1, 2016, attackers killed more than 20 people in a restaurant frequented by foreigners in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave, including one U.S. citizen.  Other attacks continue to be carried out against religious minorities, bloggers, publishers, and security forces throughout the country.  Daesh (also referred to as ISIL, or ISIS) and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have publicly claimed credit for various attacks since September 2015.

U.S. citizens should take stringent security measures, remain vigilant, and be alert to local security developments.  Be aware that U.S. government officials and their families currently are not permitted to:

  • visit public establishments or places in Bangladesh
  • travel on foot, motorcycle, bicycle, rickshaw, or other uncovered means on public thoroughfares and sidewalks in Bangladesh
  • attend large gatherings in Bangladesh

Read the full announcement here.

 

Related posts:

 

#

UK Appoints “Sly Fox” #BoJo as New Foreign Secretary, Reactions From @Number10Cat and Others

Posted: 3:34 am ET

Here’s the man of the hour:

#BoJo has a long history of saying, well, undiplomatic things. He called George W. Bush “a cross-eyed Texan warmonger, unelected, inarticulate, who epitomizes the arrogance of American foreign policy.” Da Donald? “The only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.” Read on.

Then there’s this one about his visit to Iraq in January 2015.

Perhaps it’s time for the FCO to join Foreign Service Problems (@FS_Problems), Canadian Foreign Service Problems (@cdnfsproblems) and Gifplomacy (though no longer updated by the French dips)?

Whitehall’s Chief Mouser, Palmerton (@DiploMog) did exercise appropriate restraint at the announcement, but Number 10’s Larry the Cat was pretty harsh:

Meanwhile —

This video via the BBC profiling BoJo is quite interesting and dare we say it … entertaining. The “sly fox” masquerading as a teddy bear. Have a look.

#

 

 

Officially In: Joseph R. Donovan, Jr. — From AIT/DC to the Republic of Indonesia

Posted: 3:02 am ET

On July 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Joseph R. Donovan, Jr., to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Joseph R. Donovan Jr., a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Managing Director of the Washington Office of the American Institute in Taiwan, a position he has held since 2014. Previously, Mr. Donovan served as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon from 2012 to 2014, Associate Professor at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2012, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State from 2009 to 2011. He was the U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong from 2008 to 2009, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 2005 to 2008, and Director of the Department of State’s Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs from 2003 to 2005. Prior to that, Mr. Donovan was Political Section Chief at the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan from 2000 to 2003 and Political/Military Unit Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 1997 to 2000.Earlier assignments in the Foreign Service include posts in Taiwan, China, South Korea and Qatar.Before joining the Foreign Service, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Seoul, South Korea.

Mr. Donovan received a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and an M.A. from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Joseph Donovan, the Managing Director of AIT’s Washington office, met with President Ma Ying-jeou at the Presidential Office on February 10, 2015. (Photo by AIT/Flickr)

Joseph Donovan, the Managing Director of AIT’s Washington office, met with President Ma Ying-jeou at the Presidential Office on February 10, 2015. (Photo by AIT/Flickr)

If confirmed, Mr. Donovan would succeed career diplomat, Robert O. Blake, Jr. who was appointed ambassador to Jakarta on July 30, 2013.

 

#