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Justice Department IG criticizes division’s practice of nepotism

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eight current and former officials in the Justice Management Division (JMD) of the Justice Department, who advise senior management executives on basic policy for finances, personnel and training, violated federal guidelines and regulations in seeking to hire their own relatives to positions within their offices, a report released Thursday says.

According to the department's Office of Inspector General (OIG), some officials violated the federal nepotism statute by advocating the hiring of their own relatives, while others improperly manipulated the hiring process to ensure that their children or the children of other division employees were named to department positions.

In one case, the report says, two senior officials simultaneously attempted to assist each other's relative in securing employment.

The investigation was initiated on information from Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, who complained that the children of three senior division officials had been hired illegally. He called the report "alarming," noting that the division had been warned twice since 2004 about illegal hiring practices.

"Nepotism has no place in any federal agency, and it is especially disturbing coming from the Department of Justice — the agency charged with enforcing the law," he said, calling on the department to "move quickly to enact the necessary reforms to prevent this from happening again."

The OIG report said the "improper hiring practices" involved multiple offices at the JMD, including the Facilities and Administrative Services Staff (FASS), Human Resources (HR), Finance, and Budget. The report said those involved all were at either the GS 15 grade level or members of the Senior Executive Service, and violated statutes and regulations in seeking to hire their relatives.

The report recommended the JMD take disciplinary action against those who committed the violations; that it revise its training materials and guidance to eliminate ambiguity about the nepotism statute; that it require that job applicants and hiring officials make disclosures and certifications to ensure that the JMD relatives do not receive improper preferences in hiring or promotion; and that it review additional appointments identified in the report for possible violations.

The report said:

• HR Assistant Director Pamela Cabell-Edelen undertook a "sustained campaign" to secure employment for her daughter, who was named as secretary to FASS Director Edward A. Hamilton Sr.

• Mr. Hamilton later sought from Mrs. Cabell-Edelen and other department officials his son's appointment to a JMD position.

• HR Operations Chief LaTonya Gamble "improperly manipulated the hiring process" for the benefit of Mrs. Cabell-Edelen's daughter.

• FASS Deputy Director Michael Clay and HR Assistant Director Jeanarta McEachron "simultaneously attempted to assist each other's relative" in securing federal employment — including Mr. Clay's daughter and Ms. McEachron's brother.

• Nancy Horkan, senior adviser to the deputy assistant attorney general for human resources, "made efforts within the department" to secure jobs for her son and her niece.

• JMD Finance Staff Director Melinda B. Morgan "committed misconduct" in the hiring of Mrs. Horkan's son.

• HR Director Rodney E. Markham made efforts to secure employment for his cousin and nephew.

Assistant Attorney General Lee J. Lofthus, who heads the JMD, called the report "disappointing," saying in a written response it "clearly established that inappropriate hiring occurred regarding relatives of JMD employees." He said he would "strengthen and clarify" the training of all JMD supervisors and non-supervisors.

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