Human Failings Within the DOJ: Some Are Funny, Some Less So
By David Stout | February 12, 2013 10:36 pm

A peek behind the scenes at the Justice Department Office of Inspector General reveals that the DOJ watchdog spends a lot of time investigating human foibles and follies.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the website governmentattic.org, the Justice Department released reports given to Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma in 2010 and 2011 summarizing closed investigations by the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General that weren’t released to the public.

(Read the FOIA-released summaries here. For an idea of how much time OIG spends on this kind of stuff, read a 13-page list of investigations from 2011 through mid 2012 here.)

Although the cases vary widely, there are common themes, not least the effects of hormones and alcohol.

An official at the Drug Enforcement Administration misused his position to influence the awarding of contracts, had an affair with a subordinate and arranged official travel to carry on that liaison. Not only that, he tried to arrange a transfer for the subordinate without disclosing his ties to her. The official retired the day after he was interviewed by the OIG’s office. (It sounds as though he needed a rest.)

Another DOJ employee was accused of awarding payments to a contract interpreter with whom he was romantically and financially involved. He resigned after being confronted by the OIG. (Lesson: it’s dangerous to mix friendship and business.)

And there was a DOJ employee who got into a sexual relationship with a confidential source, stole evidence seized during an investigation and misused his position to influence an investigation. He quickly retired. (Lesson: Keep your eye on the prize. But first, decide what the prize is.)

One DOJ employee was pulled over at a traffic stop and arrested after refusing to submit to a Breathalyzer test. He tried to use his influence, to no avail. Then it was found that he had recently been arrested for public intoxication. He underwent disciplinary punishment. (What was he doing behind the wheel? Ah, maybe he thought he was too drunk to walk.)

There was an Assistant United States Attorney who had a dispute with a home contractor, so he drew a gun on him. He didn’t pull the trigger, so the episode didn’t cost him years in prison, only his job. (Moral: call the Better Business Bureau next time.)

On and on go the lists of transgressions, made available to Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Coburn, now the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  There are touches of humor (at least to those not involved in the incidents) and episodes that are decidedly unfunny, involving DOJ staff people caught up in domestic violence or logging on to websites offering adult and child pornography.

Considering the many thousands of people who work for the DOJ, there is nothing in the files to suggest any pervasive decadence. But those who like to laugh at the troubles of other people (and who doesn’t?) will be disappointed.  There is nothing remotely like the entertainment provided back in the 1970s by Rep. Wilbur D. Mills, the Arkansas Democrat and once all-powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Wayne L. Hays, the Ohio Democrat who headed the House Administration Committee.

Mills’ downfall was his relationship with an Argentine stripper named Fanne Foxe, who was with the Congressman when he was caught driving drunk near Washington’s Tidal Basin the night of Oct. 9, 1974. She jumped into the water in a futile escape attempt and was fished out by the police.

As for Hays, his undoing came in May 1976, when The Washington Post revealed that he had hired a woman to be his “secretary” even though she couldn’t type, file or answer the phone competently.

Best of all, Mills and Hays were both in their mid-60s (!) at the time of their cavorting.  Bring back the Good Old Days.

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