- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton announced her retirement in coming months just as the Justice Department’s Inspector General launched an independent investigation into the embattled agency.

Ms. Hylton, who has been the director of the U.S. Marshals Service since January 2011, garnered national attention after allegations arose the U.S. Marshals engaged in improper hiring practices and questionable spending. She had been planning to retire since late 2014 and alerted Justice Department officials to her decision earlier this year, Tuesday’s statement said.

The inspector general opened its investigation into the U.S. Marshals Service in May, after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley raised concerns about whistleblower allegations.

The Iowa Republican promptly characterized Ms. Hylton’s departure Tuesday as a “decision to resign” from the agency in the face of “serious allegations of misconduct within its senior ranks.”

Mr. Grassley began sounding the alarm over the agency’s purchase of extravagant office furnishings in March. That same month, he demanded that the Justice Department explain the exchange of favors that led to the hiring of a highly-paid but unqualified contractor and a promotion for a U.S. Marshals Service official.

“It’s never good news when the head of an agency needs to step aside in the midst of these kinds of allegations, and it also doesn’t mean the investigations are complete,” he said Tuesdsay. “The Committee’s inquiry into the broad range of whistleblower allegations will continue alongside the inquiries by the Inspector General and Special Counsel. Accountability and transparency are the best tools to restore trust in an organization that is supposed to be setting an example of respect for the rule of law.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general has already received and begun reviewing information regarding “hiring practices and other matters” at the agency, a department official told The Washington Times.

Mr. Grassley said during a floor speech last month that the director’s actions leaned toward favoritism rather than merit and was indicative of “a pattern of mismanagement.”

Despite the ongoing investigation and controversy surrounding the agency, Ms. Hylton focused on her accomplishments in Tuesday’s statement.

“I am proud of our accomplishments in the last five years, including improved officer safety through new training; expanded partnerships with state, local, federal and international law enforcement; focused fiscal management and accountability; and leveraged technology to improve mission performance,” Ms. Hylton said in the retirement statement. “I have no doubt that the progress we have made will have a lasting impact and that the future of the U.S. Marshals Service will be as bright and timeless as our storied past.”

After retiring from office, Ms. Hylton intends to pursue advocacy work on law enforcement safety, community policing and relations, according to the statement.

Mr. Grassley said he wants to see Ms. Hylton replaced by someone who can have a positive impact on the agency’s corrupt culture.

“As the Marshals Service moves forward, the next director must be committed to bringing real, positive change to what appears to be a culture corroded by unethical hiring practices, misuse of funds and retaliation against whistleblowers,” he said.

• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at mybarra@washingtontimes.com.

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