Embattled National Archives IG to retire after probe finds misconduct

The top watchdog for the National Archives is retiring after a costly two-year investigation of allegations of misconduct found that he made insensitive comments about women and racial minorities.

Paul Brachfeld. (Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)
Paul Brachfeld. (Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

Paul Brachfeld said he will retire Aug. 9 after a 35-year federal career. Until recently, he had fought a series of allegations made by an agent on his staff while several inquiries into his conduct were underway. But in June, a report by an independent panel that investigates complaints against inspectors general found that Brachfeld had created a locker-room environment in his office, with sexually suggestive and racially offensive comments.

The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency concluded that the comments constitute administrative misconduct “and undermine the integrity reasonably expected of an IG.”

“The [inspector general] is supposed to set a tone and personal example of rectitude and propriety,” the committee said in a nine-page report, “and should not himself be making comments or fail to stop behavior by his staff that he or she is aware of that belittles or demeans others.”

The Washington Post obtained a copy of the report, which has not been made public.

Other allegations against Brachfeld claimed that he altered audits, provided sensitive law enforcement information to reporters for CBS News’s “60 Minutes” before authorities had approved its release and had a security guard fired because of his race.

The panel did not substantiate those claims against Brachfeld, who has been collecting full salary and benefits since September 2012, when his boss, David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, placed him on paid administrative leave.

Brachfeld, in an e-mail, declined to comment on his retirement or the investigation. He has denied all of the allegations.

The integrity committee said it was “particularly disturbed by the comments Brachfeld made concerning interracial marriage, comments concerning pregnant women, and comments indicating that [he] was interested in dating NARA employees or contractors,” the report said.


Inside the National Archives building. (Matt McClain for The Washington Post)

Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman declined comment on the case or how much money in total the Archives spent on outside counsel; as of six months ago, an outside law firm Ferriero hired to handle the case had been paid $130,000.

The inspector general’s office has been led by an acting chief, James Springs. Kleiman declined to say whether he will be appointed.

Brachfeld’s case has highlighted concerns among lawmakers in both parties about due process for inspectors general. At large federal agencies, nominees for the position are confirmed by the Senate. But at smaller ones such as the Archives, they are hired and can be fired by the head of the agency.

The case also brought to light a common practice in government of placing an employee who is accused of breaking the rules on paid leave. Brachfeld’s lengthy paid leave was compounded by the slow deliberations of the integrity committee, which meets just four times a year.

“The inspector general’s office has had to function without a permanent head for two years,” said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “That’s a very long time.”

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.
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