The head of a Justice Department law enforcement office used his position to secure a job for his son and other relatives, the agency’s internal watchdog said Wednesday, the latest in a string of reports that have repeatedly found examples of nepotism at the department.
The head of the Justice branch of the International Criminal Police Organization, or INTERPOL, told employees to “earmark a spot” for his son and “provide extra attention to his processing for obvious reasons,” said the department’s inspector general.
It’s not the first example of nepotism at Eric Holder’s Justice Department. A November investigation by the inspector general found that certain offices in the department had a “pervasive culture of nepotism and favoritism.” It’s at least the fifth inspector general report since 2004 to find hiring problems at the agency.
“There is no room for nepotism in the federal government’s hiring practices,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “Those hired to serve taxpayers must earn — not be given — the job. I urge the Department of Justice to take the appropriate disciplinary actions for such an abuse of authority.”
The INTERPOL office’s Executive Director, Warren Lewis, also abused his position to help three people with connections to his son obtain jobs at the agency — even though he had never personally met two of them, investigators said.
“Lewis had no personal knowledge of their professional abilities,” the inspector general said. “After the three individuals all failed to make the certified lists of qualified applicants, Lewis took steps to overcome their exclusion.”
Ironically, Mr. Lewis is listed as the Justice Department’s Ethics Official for his office, according to department records.
Justice representatives said the agency is studying the inspector general’s conclusions.
“The Inspector General’s report is currently being reviewed by the appropriate Department of Justice officials,” said Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice spokesman.
The problems at the INTERPOL office are the latest of several recent examples of troubled hiring practices at Justice offices.
In a report last year focused on the Executive Office for Immigration Review, investigators found the environment of managers hiring their children and friends was so pervasive that it “infected the entire organization from the highest levels down.”
Judges, executives and administrators were “actively involved in placing their relatives in paid student positions” and “employees openly advocated for EOIR to hire their relatives,” the inspector general said.
And in 2012, inspectors found that various offices in the Justice Department’s Justice Management Division had colluded together to hire each other’s family.
For example, the assistant human resources director, Pamela Cabell-Edelen, lobbied repeatedly for her daughter to be hired, going so far as to change the requirements of a job vacancy so her child would have a better chance.
Investigators said they also believe that Ms. Cabell-Edelen lied under oath in an attempt to cover up the nepotism accusations, but were unable to take any disciplinary action since she had already retired.
Investigators also noted that one of the offices involved in the hiring schemes — Facilities and Administrative Services Staff — had already been criticized twice by the inspector general in 2004 and 2008 for its repeated hiring of family members and friends.
As for the most recent case at the INTERPOL office, investigators noted that Mr. Lewis had a “financial interest” as well as familial in seeing his son was hired as a contractor. The son, Peter, was living with his father and paying rent, meaning the job would ensure he had enough money to go on paying his dad for housing.
And inspectors said that Mr. Lewis — and other INTERPOL managers — used the internship program to benefit friends and acquaintances, giving certain students the unpaid internships that served as a leg-up in seeking a federal job.
Investigators said the officials had abused “public office for private gain.”
“The Intern Coordinator told us that she would not have selected several of the students Lewis referred to her, but that she felt obliged to offer internships to the students who were supported by Lewis,” the inspector general report said.
INTERPOL is an international law enforcement agency that coordinates efforts between various countries and helps pursue criminals who cross borders. The organization is headquartered in France.