- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

Black U.S. Secret Service agents who say a limit was placed on the number of them who can serve on Al Gore's security detail yesterday demanded the vice president provide the "moral leadership" to end racial discrimination within the agency.
Attorney John P. Relman, who represents 38 black agents in a class-action discrimination suit, said Mr. Gore was aware of complaints of racial problems within the Secret Service and on his security detail, but made no effort to address the issue.
"Where does the moral responsibility lie for a man running for president in a matter like this?" Mr. Relman asked during a press conference, at which 10 current and former black agents testified about discrimination within the 135-year-old agency.
"Mr. Gore ought to provide the moral leadership necessary to get these problems resolved. He ought to push this matter forward to help us find the truth," he said. "The vice president can break up this logjam if he wants to. Why is he silent?"
James Kennedy, the vice president's spokesman, said Mr. Gore was unaware of any discrimination on his security detail "other than what has appeared in news reports." But he said Mr. Gore "is opposed to discrimination of any kind."
Regarding the call for Mr. Gore to provide "moral leadership" to address the accusations, Mr. Kennedy referred the request to the Secret Service, which he said "handles staffing matters."
During a press conference, the agents described a "pervasive failure" within the Secret Service to respond to complaints of racial discrimination, adding that both President Clinton and Mr. Gore had been told of serious problems involving black agents and had failed to respond.
They noted that during the 135-year history of the agency, not one female black agent had ever been named as a manager at any office or at any level.
"Never, not ever in 135 years," said Mr. Relman.
The agents also said the agency rarely disciplined or corrected white agents who used racial epithets or committed other racially hostile acts, and allowed a racially hostile environment to flourish in its offices nationwide.
Lawyer Ron Schmidt, also involved in the suit, said the agents were unsure who established a "racial quota" limiting the number of blacks who can serve on Mr. Gore's security detail, but said those who complained were threatened with retaliation. He said as a direct result of the complaints, a black agent was promoted as a supervisor on the detail, although the ceiling remained in effect.
Mr. Schmidt said at least six "less qualified, less experienced" white agents were named to informal supervisory positions on Mr. Gore's security detail known as "whips" over more qualified black agents. A whip is a coveted position within the Secret Service because it enhances an agent's chances for promotion.
In the suit, filed in February with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Secret Service is accused of failing to promote black agents to management positions despite performance ratings showing they were qualified. It also charged that black agents were subjected to discrimination involving transfers, assignments and training.
A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow in U.S. District Court in Washington. The Secret Service has asked the court to dismiss the case, saying the agents are seeking relief for suspected discrimination dating back more than two decades and have not exhausted other administrative remedies.
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin declined to discuss the accusations, saying the "appropriate venue" to address the issue was in court. But he said the agency is "proud of its record on diversity," saying it has "actively engaged in ensuring a diverse work environment and affording equal opportunity to each of our employees."
The agents, led by Robert J. Moore, a 16-year veteran, said the agency allowed a "racially hostile work environment" to exist and failed to make any changes or to punish those who exhibited improper behavior.
"We're not talking about individual people or individual acts. We're talking about a system that is flawed," he said. "We need to fix this broken system or get rid of it."
Mr. Moore cited actions by Secret Service officials in Washington who failed to punish white agents attending an annual whites-only "Good O' Boys Roundup" in Tennessee. He said some of the agents who participated in the event later were promoted to supervisory positions.
In 1996, the Justice Department found rampant racism, public drunkenness and nudity at the roundup, but said local police, not federal agents, were to blame.

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