Eric Boswell is still on the government payroll, even though he quit his Senate-confirmed post last week after he was singled out in a report on the department’s failings in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the State Department said Thursday.
“The State Department must comply with established federal law and regulations governing personnel actions, which do not provide the authority to summarily terminate or take other punitive actions against career employees,” department spokesman Chris Hensman said.
Mr. Boswell, who resigned as assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, is a career Foreign Service officer and theoretically could return to work in a different job at the department next year, explained a State Department official on the condition of anonymity.
Former officials said it can take up to a month for officeholders to complete and process paperwork when leaving a Senate-confirmed job, and they usually remain on the payroll until the process is completed.
Also Thursday, aides to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would end her sick leave Monday and resume her official duties after remaining out of the public eye since early December.
“She’s recuperating at home,” and will take up her official duties again “next week,” trusted aide Philippe Reines told Agence France-Presse on Thursday evening. Mrs. Clinton had been suffering for a stomach and a concussion from a fall, according to her doctors, though some political critics have accused her of trying to duck testifying to Congress about the department’s failures regarding the Benghazi attack.
Mr. Hensman confirmed that three other officials who had been relieved of their duties in the report’s aftermath also remain on the payroll.
Because they did not resign, department policy prohibits officials from naming them. But two were identified by administration officials: Charlene Lamb, Mr. Boswell’s deputy who was responsible for embassy security around the world; and Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who oversaw the North African nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
The report, written by an investigative board, singles out several unnamed officials who “demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns” raised by personnel in Libya before the attack, as security in Benghazi worsened and extremist militias became more active.
However, the board “did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty” and so could not recommend any disciplinary action, the report says.
“Poor performance does not ordinarily constitute a breach of duty that would serve as a basis for disciplinary action but is instead addressed through the performance management system,” the report says. In other words, the officials had failed in their work but not badly enough to be fired.
U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed in the attack.
Mr. Hensman said the State Department is eager to make changes recommended by the board, which says in its report that “findings of unsatisfactory leadership performance by senior officials … should be a potential basis for discipline.”
“The department accepted the [board’s] findings and recommendations and will partner with the Congress to achieve appropriate amendments” to federal law and personnel regulations, the spokesman said.
On Thursday, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee blasted the State Department for being “purposely misleading” about the fate of the four officials.
Department officials “gave everyone the impression that four individuals had resigned as a result of their mismanagement of the terrorist attack on Benghazi, when in fact we now find out all of them are still on the payroll,” Rep. Ilana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, told Fox News. “They’ve just shifted the deck chairs.”
Last week, department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that Mrs. Clinton had “has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as assistant secretary for diplomatic security, effective immediately.”
She added that the three others singled out in the report “have been relieved of their current duties.”