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Federal Faces: Kelly Maltagliati

Name: Kelly Maltagliati

Position: Special agent-in-charge of the Archival Recovery Team, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Office of Inspector General

Best known for: Tracking down historical documents from the National Archives. Thousands have disappeared over the years, including the patent for the Wright Brothers’ airplane, target maps of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Civil War telegrams written by Abraham Lincoln.

Maltagliati was instrumental in establishing NARA’s investigative Archival Recovery Team eight years ago, and every year since has made a huge impact by locating countless missing historical records and helping secure criminal convictions against transgressors. She also has enhanced security measures at the National Archives, its presidential libraries and regional centers nationwide.

“Kelly has been the champion of the program,” said Ross Weiland, a former deputy inspector general who worked with Maltagliati. “Her investigative style is just to outwork, outlast and out-hustle everyone else.”

As head of the recovery program, Maltagliati has set up sting operations, visited memorabilia and Civil War shows, used social media to reach out to the public, established a hotline and built a network of “sentinels” throughout the nation to be on the lookout for stolen documents.

There have been a number of notable successes.

Earlier this year, a well-known presidential memorabilia collector pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of original documents from major archival repositories, including the National Archives and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, N.Y. The theft included seven copies of Roosevelt’s speeches that contained edits, handwritten additions and his signature. Maltagliati and her team worked with the FBI, helped prepare the search warrants, and identified and recovered the material stolen from the library.

In another case, a contact alerted Maltagliati regarding the sale of numerous historical recordings on eBay. That led to the arrest and 2011 guilty plea by a former longtime National Archives employee who admitted stealing a thousand audio recordings ranging from radio episodes of “Dragnet” and “Gunsmoke” to a 1937 radio interview with Babe Ruth. Maltagliati's office also recently recovered important Watergate documents, including sealed grand jury testimony that had been inadvertently donated by former special prosecutor Leon Jaworski to a university library.

David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, said Maltagliati brings “passion to her work” and helps “ensure that the documents we are responsible for are around forever.”

“It’s not just about protecting pieces of paper, it’s about protecting our history,” Ferriero said.

“She is getting the American people their history back. These are priceless, one-of a-kind documents,” said Debra Wall, the deputy archivist. “We really believe the archives are essential to a democracy, and we take our mission seriously. Kelly has taken it a step further by going out and finding these missing documents.”

When she first arrived on the scene, Maltagliati said, officials at the National Archives “didn’t want to talk about stolen material because they were embarrassed.” In addition, those who collect and sell historical documents and other materials were not always helpful. She said her office has helped change the culture at the Archives, while establishing relationships with many of those who trade in historical materials and now realize that collaboration can help them avoid trouble.

Maltagliati said she wants to be a “good public steward,” and finds it “fulfilling” to recover stolen documents and ensure continued public access to these records.

“I can remember the first time I held in my hand a pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln,” she said. “I was in the treasure vault, and I just felt chills.”

Government work: Maltagliati has been a federal employee for 25 years, working for the U.S. Customs Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of Inspector General at NASA and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the National Archives.

Motivation for service: Maltagliati knew she wanted to work in law enforcement — a career not always easy for women — as early as ninth grade. Her father and his grandfather were both civil servants, and her parents encouraged her to pursue her dream. She sees her service as “an opportunity to do what is right and just” and to have “a real feeling of accomplishment.”

Biggest challenge: The criminal justice system is set up to ensure that the evidence in any case has to be rock-solid, which, according to Maltagliati is “always a challenge, especially in white-collar crime.”

Quote: “My uncle [a retired civil servant] told me a job is something you do and get paid, a career is something you have fun doing and they give you a paycheck on top of it. My career has been fun and I hope I have earned my pay.”

For a full profile, go to The Fed Page at washingtonpost.com/politics/ federal-government.

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