Tillerson’s COS Margaret Peterlin, and D/COS Christine Ciccone to Leave on 3/31

Posted: 2:50 am  ET

 

CNN reported late on March 13 that Tillerson’s chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, and deputy chief of staff, Christine Ciccone, also submitted their resignations on Tuesday, according to two senior State Department officials. Both are expected to serve until Tillerson leaves on March 31.

 

We wrote about Tillerson’s inner circle at State last June, see Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

Politico’ Nahal Toosi also reported these departures on March 14 and notes that “Many State staffers say the two were widely disliked for severely limiting access to the secretary, sidelining career diplomats and slowing down an already cumbersome decision-making process.” And that’s not an exhaustive list.

We’d like to know what happens to the staffers that Tillerson’s aides brought with them to Foggy Bottom now that they’re leaving. Are they leaving, too? Any personnel conversions to Civil Service or conversions to special government service (SGEs)? Curious minds would like to know.

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Is Congress aware that the people that do ALL the reviewing for @StateDept FOIA requests (are) part timers?

Posted: 3:23 am ET
Updated: April 19 9:47 pm PT
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Below is an excerpt from the Associated Press v. State Department Case 1:13-cv-01363-EGS Document 48-2 Filed 12/11/15, a status hearing with John Hackett who has been with the State Department since 2013. Mr. Hackett was the Deputy Director, Office of Information Programs and Services from April 2013 to March 2014. He served as Acting Director for a year, and in June 2015, he was appointed Director of the Office of Information Programs and Services. The hearing occurred before Judge Richard Leon at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. This is an excerpt from the court transcript:

Q How many people you got working under you, sir?
A We have approximately 60 civil servants who work on the FOIA program.

Q You have some part-time people too, right?
A We have additional part-time people.

Q Forty?
A We have 40 former foreign service officers who do primarily the review.

Q You have 40 part-time employees, former foreign service officers who assists the 60 full time, right?
A The 40 former foreign service officers are the primary reviewers. They’re experts in their field, and they do, they do the bulk of the review. In fact, they do all of the reviews.

Q The sixty, 64 folks that you have on your full-time staff don’t do any reviewing?
A No, your Honor, they’re case analysts and they receive the documents that come in, the requests that come in from the public. They do the validations of the requests. They do the tasking of other bureaus and offices. They open the mail, task things out.

Q They process the paper?
A Process the paper, yes.

Q They don’t have the training, background and skill to make the kinds of judgment calls that reviewers make, if I understood you correctly?
A That’s correct, your Honor.

Q And when you say 40 are part time, what does part time equal 20 hours per week?
A It depends, your Honor. They are in a special category that allows them to work X amount of hours per year and receive their pensions at the same time, their foreign service pension. So there’s a cap on their hours and there’s also a cap on their dollars. So a lot of them work I would say 20 to 24 hours a week, but it depends on what they’re paid. Because many of them cap out before they’ve used all their hours. They cap out on their salary hours.

Q So you don’t have the authority to direct them to work more than X-number of hours a week or do you?
A I don’t, your Honor, because it is a provision, and I’m not sure — it’s in the department’s regulation or whether it’s in an act or statute that allows them to work, work for the State Department, work for the government in addition to receive their foreign service retirement.

Q Is Congress aware that the people that do all the reviewing for State Department FOIA requests part timers? Does congress know this?
A Your Honor, I can’t speak to what Congress does or does not know.

Q Well, has that always been the system?
A It’s been the system since I arrived, your Honor. It’s been a successful system to have.

Q Well, now that’s a matter of prospective, sir. The  State Department has been publicly criticized on many occasions for how slow they are in processing FOIA reviews, many occasions. Indeed, I think Justice and State are the ones that are publicly criticized the most for the slowness of their reviews. Surely you’re aware of that, are you not, it’s your department?
A Your Honor, we have since 2008, had a 300 percent increase in the number of requests coming to the Department.

Q All the more reason why you should have full-time people doing the reviewing. So prior to you getting there it was always part timers too as far as you know?
A As far as I know, your Honor, yes.

Q As far as you know it’s always been part timers?
A Yes, but there’s been part timers, but it’s not just their part timers. You need staff or you need experts in this field, in diplomacy and national security information. And they come to us with —

Q Let’s pause there for a second. You don’t need that to figure out Huma Abedin’s, Special Government Employee papers. That doesn’t affect national security, does it?
A I don’t know, your Honor.

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Retired FSOs who return to work as part-timers are called Reemployed Annuitants (previously categorized as WAEs or When Actually Employed employees), and their work hours are capped at 1040 hours a year. Below via RNET:

The term WAE (When Actually Employed) is used in the Department of State (DoS) to describe a reemployed annuitant who works on an intermittent basis for no more than 1040 hours during each service year and whose appointment is not to exceed one year. Bureaus utilize WAEs to fill staffing gaps and peak workload periods. While the acronym WAE is currently well-known inside DoS, new employees understandably find it confusing. In order to transition out of using the term WAE, the program has been renamed the Reemployed Annuitant (WAE) Program or REA/WAE.
[….]
A FS annuitant reemployed on a temporary basis will continue to receive their full annuity and the full salary so long as the annual earnings and annuity received do not exceed the higher of: (a) the FS annuitant’s salary at retirement (unadjusted for inflation) or (b) the full- time salary of the position in which the FS annuitant is reemployed.

Updated April 19:

A new declaration from Mr. Hackett (via Leopold v. State Department) case indicates that the State Department has hired additional reviewers. It looks like there will be 25 more FOIA reviewers to be brought onboard this spring.

 

Related posts:

 

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Why the Secretary of State should be asked to account for these 7th Floor denizens

Posted: 4:19 am ET
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In case you have not seen this, here is a piece via Politico about the State Department’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, a position that was created during the Clinton tenure and one that appears  to no longer exist under the Kerry tenure (Gary Hart is listed as Kerry’s Personal Representative for Northern Ireland Issues). Excerpt:

Government employees are typically restricted in their ability to receive outside income. But Hillary Clinton’s State Department expanded the use of “special government employees,” a relatively rare status originally created for scientists and others with unusual technical expertise that cannot be provided in-house. This allowed certain workers chosen by her or her staff, including Kelly, to receive money from private firms, including those who might potentially have business before the federal government.
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After his appointment in September 2009, Kelly quickly staffed up by making an unconventional move and hiring five employees using money out of his own pocket. One used the title “deputy to the U.S. State Department’s Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland,” and, according to his current bio, was tasked with “helping to drive investment to the region from U.S. corporations and facilitate bilateral trade.”

Another “adviser” to the economic envoy, was “responsible for executing a number special initiatives to help drive economic development in support of the ongoing peace process,” according to his current bio. And a third was named “senior counsel,” according to her LinkedIn profile, working with two additional employees to start up a mentoring program placing Irish fellows at American companies.

Despite job titles that sounded like State Department positions, and despite their regular interactions with official State Department staff and Irish diplomats, none of them were official government employees, and thus they had no constraints on their outside activities.

“The State Department does not have a record of these individuals being employed by the Department,” reads a State Department statement for this story.

Some of Kelly’s envoy office employees were also doing consulting work for Kelly’s private firm, listing Declan Kelly Consulting on their résumés. They would become among the first Teneo employees. Because they weren’t officially on the State Department payroll, their work would not receive the typical oversight given to State employees. It’s unclear whether they were required to file any sort of disclosure forms, and the State Department would not comment on what obligations they may or may not have had to meet.

Related items:

 

Following the Clinton tenure, the proliferation of special envoys, special representatives, coordinators and special advisors continued in Foggy Bottom. As of this writing, the State Department has 18 special envoys, 17 special representatives, 6 ambassadors-at-large, 15 coordinators, 7 special advisors, 1 senior advisor, 1 senior official, 1 personal representative, 1 senior representative in addition to the many functional and geographic bureaus in the department. In less than a year, most of them will be gone with  Secretary Kerry.  But we are certain that all will be replaced by new faces, and next BFFs (or old ones, as the case may be) parachuting into Foggy Bottom’s top floors in January 2017.

We agree with Senator Corker that every secretary of state should be asked to account for these 7th Floor denizens/positions, most especially on their necessity to the effective conduct of the foreign affairs of the United States.

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Related posts:

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State/OIG to Review Use of Special Government Employees (SGE), Conflicts of Interest Safeguards

Posted: 2:20 am EDT
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Back in 2013, we blogged about the State Department Special Government Employees:  Who Are the State Dept’s 100 “Special Government Employees”? Dunno But Is Non-Disclosure For Public Good? and this: State Dept refused to name its SGEs because of reasons #1, #2, #3, #4 and … oh right, the Privacy Act of 1974:

At that time, there was a message from Mission Command:

“Good morning, Mr. Hunt (or whoever is available). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves the retrieval of all Special Government Employee (SGE) names. There are more than a hundred names but no one knows how many more.  They are padlocked in the Privacy Act of 1974 vault, guarded by a monstrous fire-breathing creature from Asia Minor. PA1974 vault location is currently in Foggy Bottom.  As always, should you or any member of your team be caught or killed, everybody with a badge will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.  If not, well, find a match and burn.”

Teh-heh!

In January 2014, without Mr. Hunt, the State Department finally released its SGE list as reported by ProPublica here . ProPublica  concluded then that “the list suggests that the status is mostly used for its intended purpose: to allow outside experts to consult or work for the government on a temporary basis.” Which makes one wonder why it wasn’t readily released in the first place.

The recent Clinton email debacle, revived interest on Secretary Clinton’s use of the SGE program that allowed some political allies to work for the government while pursuing private-sector careers. In March, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who heads the Judiciary Committee was on it.

Via WaPo:

“The public’s business ought to be public with few exceptions,” Grassley said in a statement Saturday. “When employees are allowed to serve the government and the private sector at the same time and use private email, the employees have access to everything and the public, nothing.”

Senator Grassley’s request to the State Department, apparently not yet answered, is available here.

Last week, Senator Grassley received confirmation that the State Department Office of Inspector General will review the department’s use of the Special Government Employee program. Below is part of Senator Grassley’s statement:

“This program is meant to be used in a limited way to give the government special expertise it can’t get otherwise,” Grassley said.  “Is the program working the way it’s intended at the State Department or has it been turned on its head and used in ways completely unrelated to its purpose?   An independent analysis will help to answer the question.  An inspector general review is necessary. Available information suggests that in at least one case, the State Department gave the special status for employee convenience, not public benefit.”

In response to Grassley’s request, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick confirmed his office “intends to examine the Department’s SGE program to determine if it conforms to applicable legal and policy requirements, including whether or not the program, as implemented, includes safeguards against conflicts of interest.”

Grassley is concerned about potential conflicts of interest arising from a top State Department employee, Huma Abedin, who worked for both the government as a Special Government Employee and an outside firm, Teneo, at the same time.

More about Ms Abedin’s consulting work here.  Senator Grassley’s request to IG Linick is available here.  IG Linick’s response to Senator Grassley is available here.

You get the feeling that State/OIG is the most wanted office in WashDC these days?

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ProPublica: State Department Finally Releases List of ‘Special Government Employees’

— by Justin Elliott and Liz Day ProPublica, Jan. 30, 2014, 1:22 p.m.

Last year, Politico reported that former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had a special arrangement under which she simultaneously worked for the State Department and a corporate consulting firm.

Watchdogs and others raised questions about Abedin’s status blurring the line between private and public sector employment. She responded that the dual employment did not pose any conflict of interest, and there is no evidence Abedin used her public position to help private clients.

Soon after, we asked the State Department for a list of any other such employees. Now, after a six-month delay, the department has given us the names.

The list suggests that the status is mostly used for its intended purpose: to allow outside experts to consult or work for the government on a temporary basis.

But at least one person on the list appears to have had an arrangement similar to Abedin’s.

Caitlin Klevorick received two one-year appointments as a special government employee beginning in January 2012.

During that time, online listings show she had a private consulting firm, CBK Strategies, which advises government and corporate clients on communication and policy:

Work with diverse range of clients from Government to Fortune 100 companies to high profile individuals advising them on a range of issues including: overall strategic vision, crisis management, policy and political advising, communications, corporate social responsibility and partnerships.

“There is a very high potential for actual conflicts of interest in this case, and there is certainly every appearance of conflicts of interest,” said Craig Holman of the ethics watchdog Public Citizen.

Klevorick did not respond to our requests for comment about what outside work she did during the period she was a special employee.

Asked about the case, a State Department official said: “All of our employees that are allowed to work for non-Department of State entities are doing so with permission of the bureaus they are working with and provided their outside work does not pose a conflict of interest.”

Before joining the State Department, Klevorick had worked as a consultant to former President Clinton and to the Clinton Foundation.

Klevorick joined the State Department in 2009, as “Special Assistant for the Counselor of the Department in the Office of the Secretary.”

When she became a special government employee three years later, she “provided expert knowledge and advice to the Counselor and Chief of Staff & other Department Officials on a variety of important foreign policy issues,” according to the State Department.

Klevorick’s boss was Cheryl Mills, a longtime Clinton adviser who was also a special government employee, reportedly working on Haiti issues.

The list of special government employees also includes many lifelong civil servants and the occasional celebrity, such as Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan. She was appointed in 2012 a senior adviser for public diplomacy.

There are also scientists such as a physicist from Los Alamos National Laboratory who did not draw a salary for his work for the State Department.

Others on the list have ties to Democratic politics but their work did not appear to raise any potential conflict of interest.

Longtime pollster Jeremy Rosner, for example, was made a special government employee in 2011. He moved to Pakistan temporarily to serve as a public affairs consultant to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad providing “expert level advice to the Chief of Mission on how best to exploit new media tools by all agencies at Mission Pakistan,” according to the State Department.

Here is the full list from the State Department.

And here is a list of special government employees from other agencies.

Republished from ProPublica via
88x31CC

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State Dept refused to name its SGEs because of reasons #1, #2, #3, #4 and … oh right, the Privacy Act of 1974

— Domani Spero

Last week, ProPublica posted this: Who Are State Dept’s 100 “Special Government Employees”? It Won’t Say.  We blogged about it here: Who Are State Dept’s 100 “Special Government Employees”? Dunno But Is Non-Disclosure For Public Good? Today, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has more on the subject. And after months of giving one reason or another to the reporters pursuing this case, the State Department is down to its Captain America shield  — the Privacy Act of 1974.

Below excerpted from POGO: State Dept. Won’t Name Advisers Already in Government’s Public Database:

They’ve all been selected to advise the State Department on foreign policy issues. Their names are listed on the State Department’s website.

So why won’t the Department disclose that these individuals are special government employees (SGEs)?

For four months, State has refused to name its SGEs, ProPublica reported last week, leaving the public to guess which outside experts are advising the Department on matters that affect the public’s interest.

Yet, the Project On Government Oversight was able to find more than 100 of the advisers identified as SGEs in an online government database. In other words, some of the information that State has been refusing to provide is hiding in plain sight.
[…]
State has refused to identify any of its special employees, even though most agencies contacted by ProPublica were easily able to provide a list of their SGEs.

First, a State spokeswoman told ProPublica her agency “does not disclose employee information of this nature.”

When ProPublica filed a request seeking the list of names under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it was told the agency doesn’t keep such a list, and State’s FOIA office refused to track down the information because it would require “extensive research.”

In September, ProPublica told State it planned to report that the Department was refusing to provide a list of names. In response, State said the FOIA request “was being reopened” and that the records would be provided “in a few weeks,” according to ProPublica.

“The State Department has since pushed back the delivery date three times and still hasn’t provided any list,” ProPublica reported last week. “It has been four months since we filed the original request.”

On Friday, a State official told The Washington Post that the Department is “diligently working to resolve” the FOIA request. The official cited concerns about “maintaining employee protections of privacy.”

State’s posture over the past several months is at odds with POGO’s finding: why can’t the Department give the press the same information it already supplied to a public database?

“Disclosure of certain employee information is subject to the Privacy Act of 1974,” Alec Gerlach, a State spokesperson, told POGO. “That some information may already be publicly available does not absolve the Department of Privacy Act requirements. Whether someone is an SGE is Privacy Act-protected information that we would not release except through the FOIA process.”

However, one of the authors of ProPublica’s story questioned why State hasn’t turned over the requested records. “I think anytime a government agency won’t reveal information, it raises questions about why they aren’t,” Liz Day, ProPublica’s Director of Research, told POGO.

Holy mother of god of distraught spoxes!  Okay, please, try not to laugh. It is disturbing to watch this type of contortion, and it seems to be coming regularly these days from Foggy Bottom.

Seriously.  If this is about the Privacy Act of 1974, why wasn’t ProPublica told of this restriction four months ago? And does that mean that all other agencies who released their SGE names were in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974?

Also, State/OIG was told that “The number of special government employee filers was given as 100.”  A State Department spokeswoman told ProPublica that there are “about 100” such employees.  But what do you know?  The Project On Government Oversight was able to find more than 100 of the advisers (excel download file) identified as SGEs in an online government database. Are there more? How many more?

The list does not include the more famous SGEs of the State Department previously identified in news report.

New message from Mission Command:  “Good morning, Mr. Hunt (or whoever is available). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves the retrieval of very Special Government Employee (SGE) names. There are more than a hundred names but no one knows how many more.  They are padlocked in the Privacy Act of 1974 vault, guarded by a monstrous fire-breathing creature from Asia Minor. PA1974 vault location is currently in Foggy Bottom.  As always, should you or any member of your team be caught or killed, everybody with a badge will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.  If not, well, find a match and burn.”

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