DS Agent Charged With “Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct” Gets Three Days Suspension

— Domani Spero

Remember back in 2010 when HeraldNet reported that a federal agent was arrested for assault in the Snohomish County of Washington State? Quick recap:

“The man was arrested June 17 for investigation of second-degree assault. Deputies seized 15 guns from the home, including his duty weapon, according to a police affidavit filed in Everett District Court.

He told investigators that he is an agent with the U.S. Department of State in Seattle. His wife told authorities that he is a diplomatic security officer.”

See DS Agent Arrested After Wife Reports Assault.

The agent’s name was never publicly released.

But — there is a grievance case (names redacted, of course) that is identical in details and timing to the reported case.  A Motion to Exclude order by the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) on the grievance filed by an unnamed FS-03 Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Agent provides details about a 2010 disciplinary case for “notoriously disgraceful conduct.”  While we cannot say with certainty that this is the exact same case, the 2010 news report made mention that the  “woman complained of blurred vision and head pain” while the 2010 FSGB case mentions that the “Grievant’s wife complained of blurred vision and head pain.”The news report and the grievance case both notes that the incident happened on June 17, 2010 and that the wife was taken to a hospital (location not unidentified in the grievance records).

Below are details extracted from the redacted FSGB 2012-045  ROI dated June 30, 2010, publicly available via FSGB.gov

Grievant is a married DS Special Agent with two children, aged approximately [REDACTED]. On June 17, 2010, while he was assigned to the Diplomatic Security Field Office, grievant was involved in a violent altercation with his wife in his home while his children were at home.

Grievant’s wife called the police who, after interviewing both adults, arrested grievant and charged him with assault in the fourth degree. In a statement provided to the Sheriff’s Office immediately following the incident, grievant reported that he and his wife had had an argument over the contents of messages on his government issued cell phone. Grievant reported that his wife grabbed his phone and when he grabbed it back, she slapped him in the face. Grievant claimed that he stood up from a seated position on the bed in the master bedroom and stretched out his arm to prevent his wife from striking him again, which resulted in her falling backwards and hitting her head on the floor.

Immediately following the incident, grievant’s wife provided a sworn statement to the law enforcement responders in which she claimed that after she slapped grievant, he picked her up and “body slammed” her to the floor, then grabbed her head striking it against the floor four to five times. Grievant’s wife complained of blurred vision and head pain and was taken to the hospital. A CT scan of her head was taken that revealed a palm-sized “subarachnoid hemorrhage within the inter-hemispheric fissure and right cingulated sulcus,” which was described as a bleeding within the brain. Notes on her medical record indicated, “[H]ead slammed into floor repeatedly.” Grievant’s wife was transferred to a second hospital for further examination and evaluation by a neurologist. The neurologist ordered her hospitalized overnight for observation and assessed her condition as “traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage.”

In a follow up visit on June 19, the Sheriff’s Office took photographs of grievant’s wife, noting two bruises on the left side of her face, near her eye and cheek, that were approximately the size of a quarter. She then sought another CT scan to determine if her cheekbone was broken, but it was not.

As a result of the altercation with his wife, grievant was placed on limited duty status and was restricted from using his government-issued firearm and DS credentials. Grievant’s security clearance was suspended from September 10, 2010 until April 17, 2012. Reports of the incident appeared on a local television news program and three internet sites. In these media reports, grievant was identified as a DS Agent with the Department of State in [REDACTED]. The articles described the altercation and one mentioned the injuries sustained by grievant’s wife.

According to the Record of Proceeding (ROP), the grievant entered into an Order of Continuance of the assault charge that deferred all court proceedings arising from his arrest for twelve months on December 14, 2010.  On May 4, 2011, after grievant fully complied with the terms and conditions of the continuance order, the case against him was dismissed.

On December 19, 2011, the Director of Employee Relations proposed to suspend grievant for five days without pay and place a letter of suspension in his official performance file for two years or until review by two promotion boards. Grievant appealed this decision and on March 4, 2012, the Department upheld the charge of Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct, but reduced the suspension to three days.

The case is available on pdf file here.

Here is what 3 FAM 4139.14 says about Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct: “that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States. Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations, spousal abuse, neglect or abuse of children, manufacturing or distributing pornography, entering into debts the employee could not pay, or making use of one’s position or immunity to profit or to provide favor to another (see also 5 CFR 2635) or to create the impression of gaining or giving improper favor.”

It looks like the judgment of “notoriously disgraceful conduct” does not even require that one be publicly identified, just that the potential that the incident be widely known exist (note specific mention of media reports, one tv program and three Internet sites).

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Joan Wadelton’s Appeal Makes it to FSGB 2011 Annual Report to Congress

In May, we posted about the case of FSO Joan Wadelton from Patricia Kushlis’ troubling blog post (see Joan Wadelton’s Case: That’s One Messy Promotion Scorecard, Next Up – It’s GAO Time!).  Ms. Wadelton’s case made it to the FSGB’s 2011  Annual Report to Congress:

Appeal of Joan Wadelton. On January 7, 2011, Joan Wadelton, a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State, filed a Complaint in the District Court for the District of Columbia, asking that it review the Board’s decision resolving a 2008 grievance appeal. Ms. Wadelton had filed three grievances prior to the 2008 appeal contesting the results of six selection boards which had not promoted her. As a result of those grievances, all six boards were reconstituted and Ms. Wadelton’s file was again reviewed for promotion. None of the six reconstituted boards promoted her. Ms. Wadelton then challenged the results of the reconstituted boards in the 2008 follow-on grievance. In its decision, the Board found deficiencies and irregularities in the operations of all six reconstituted boards, rebutting the presumption that they were conducted with regularity, and ordered that six new reconstituted selection boards be convened. Ms. Wadelton’s complaint challenges the Board’s decision to order a new round of reconstituted boards, rather than direct a promotion, as she had requested.

So Ms. Wadelton contested the results of the six selection boards, and State reconstituted all six boards.

Then Ms. Wadelton challenged the reconstituted boards, and FSGB ordered State too reconstitute six new selection boards.

The Grievance Board “found deficiencies and irregularities in the operations of all six reconstituted boards” so it ordered State, that is, the same HR Bureau to reconstitute six new selection boards.  Because that makes a lot of sense. It did not say if the deficiencies and irregularities were isolated to these six reconstituted boards or if they are systemic to the bureau and the process.

Hopefully the new boards are better at math so the promotion scorecards won’t be as messy, yes?  Or maybe, since this is now a case in the District Court for the District of Columbia, we’ll hear much more about the perplexing promotion scorecard process and how they get so messy.

Domani Spero