- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2000

A ceiling has been placed on the number of black U.S. Secret Service agents who can serve on Al Gore's security detail a decision the vice president's campaign staff failed to address even after complaints by the agents, according to a Washington attorney.
Attorney Ron Schmidt said the accusation will be among several outlined during a press conference this morning involving 10 current and former black Secret Service agents, who will accuse the Clinton administration and the agency of racial hostility.
"There has been a pervasive failure to address these things, and it has been quite shocking to us. The indifference shown by the Clinton administration has been palpable," said Mr. Schmidt, adding that both President Clinton and Mr. Gore were "copied on complaints" concerning the limitation of black agents on Mr. Gore's detail "and we've heard nothing from them."
"The vice president's staff was specifically told of the racial quota for the security detail, but has been silent," he said.
Mr. Schmidt said the agents were unsure who established a limit for the number of blacks who can be assigned to the detail, but that they were threatened by the agency with retaliation when they complained.
He said that as a result of the complaints, one black agent was promoted as a supervisor on the detail, although the ceiling remained in effect. He said the promotion was based solely on race.
Mr. Gore's office did not return calls for comment.
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said the "appropriate venue to address these issues" is a court of law, noting that the agency faces a pending discrimination lawsuit filed in February by 50 black agents.
"We intend to address these matters and others in court, but the agency is proud of its record on diversity," he said, adding that the Secret Service has "actively engaged in ensuring a diverse work environment and affording equal opportunity to each of our employees."
Mr. Mackin noted that of the seven officials assigned as the top assistants to Secret Service Director Brian L. Stafford, two are black; that seven of the agency's 11 largest field offices are headed by minority agents, including four blacks; and that of the Secret Service's Senior Executive Service those agents considered the agency's top management 17 percent are black.
The February lawsuit, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, was modeled after similar and successful challenges during the 1990s by black agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The suit accuses the Secret Service of failing to promote black agents to management positions despite job performance ratings showing they were qualified for the posts.
It also said black agents, some of whom were assigned to protect Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, were subjected to a pervasive pattern of discrimination involving performance evaluations, transfers, assignments and training.
It also said the agency engaged in a pattern of racial prejudice and that promotions were based on friendships rather than job qualification.
The 10 black agents, according to Mr. Schmidt and attorney David J. Shaffer, who also is handling the case, said that concerns regarding the Gore security detail were a reflection of problems throughout the Secret Service.
They said the agency had allowed a "racially hostile work environment" to exist, noting that Secret Service officials in Washington had failed to punish white agents who attended an annual whites-only "Good O' Boys Round up" in the Tennessee hills.
Mr. Shaffer said the widespread racism, including the attendance of white agents at the Tennessee roundup, was documented in a report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General, although he said "it was buried in the footnotes."
"The report contains numerous references to Secret Service agents, including a notation that one of them was named 'redneck of the year,' " Mr. Shaffer said. "We also plan to present a tape of a death threat and will document numerous incidents showing a racially hostile work environment."
In 1996, a Justice Department probe into an annual roundup near the Ocoee River east of Chattanooga found ample evidence of rampant racism, public drunkenness and nudity, but concluded that local police not federal agents were to blame.
A separate Treasury Department investigation identified only 14 Secret Service agents who attended 11 roundups that were held, none of whom engaged in racist activities. Every Secret Service agent was questioned about the roundup and two were suspended for improper conduct, although their activities were not racially motivated.
The Justice Department report found that the atmosphere at the event, organized by ATF agents, was hostile to women and to blacks and other minorities.
"Our investigation revealed ample evidence of shocking, racist, licentious and puerile behavior," according to the report, which also described rampant alcohol abuse, widespread lewd performances, public nudity by participants and strippers hired for the event, crude skits, musical renditions with racist lyrics, jokes aimed at blacks and other minorities, and sales of T-shirts bearing racist comments.
The report said 44 current or former Justice Department employees in seven agencies attended the event, but that only one of them an FBI agent engaged in improper conduct.
The unidentified agent was suspended by FBI Director Louis J. Freeh for five days without pay and placed on probation for six months for repeatedly attending the roundups and for making a racist remark at one of them. He also was given a letter of reprimand and ordered to take sensitivity training.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide