- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is pressing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about why one of its agents, who was recommended to be fired for whistleblower abuse amid the botched Fast and Furious gun-running operation, is still employed at the agency.

Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones regarding William Newell, former ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix field division.

ATF’s professional review board recommended terminating Mr. Newell for his “poor judgment” in relation to the arson investigation of a Fast and Furious whistleblower. However, as of last year a letter from the agency to Congress showed Mr. Newell was still an employee.

“As you know, the Committees, and the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General found that ATF employees in Phoenix and Washington bore responsibility for the conduct of Operation Fast and Furious and that the Justice Department failed to adequately supervise ATF’s conduct of the case,” Mr. Grassley wrote in the letter, which was co-signed by Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “It remains unclear, however, whether and to what extent additional disciplinary actions were taken.”

The Fast and Furious operation allowed weapons from the U.S. to be transferred to drug-smuggling suspects in the hope they could be traced to high-ranking members of Mexican drug cartels. ATF, which ran the operation, lost track of hundreds of guns, with one being used to kill U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, and Mr. Chaffetz, Utah Republican, sent the letter to Mr. Jones on March 26 and released it to the public Tuesday.

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The two lawmakers are requesting ATF provide all records related the disciplinary actions taken on nine agents connected to the gun-running scandal, whether they were still employed at ATF, and, if so, an explanation of why ATF failed to implement discipline recommendations, including for Mr. Newell.

ATF didn’t immediately respond to comment from The Washington Times.

The federal government has a history of delaying firings for employees who have been caught doing wrong. The administrative process gives employees the right to protest a firing and the appeals process can take up to two years. The process was meant to make it harder for presidential appointees to fire professional civil servants for political reasons.

The Environmental Protection Agency has blamed bureaucratic red-tape from preveting the dismissal of a top-level employee who was accused of watching pornography on his computer for two to six hours a day while at work since 2010.

When asked by Congress why the agency hadn’t let him go, administrator Gina McCarthy said “I actually have to work through the administrative process, as you know.”

In 2010, the General Services Administration spent more than $800,000 on a conference in Las Vegas — which included a magician and a $75,000 bicycle-building exercise. It became one of the biggest scandals of the time and led to a lengthy investigation.

Two mangers were fired as a result of the fallout, but eventually got their federal jobs back after they appealed the decision. The organizer of the convention was allowed to retire and technically never was fired.

According to data compiled by the Federal Times, less than 0.5 percent of federal government workers were fired in 2013 — a rate one-sixth that of the private sector.

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