After what he described as a stellar career, he said that his “management style” was questioned and that he was made to feel uncomfortable. He voluntarily gave up his Libya assignment, he said, and was “demoted” to a desk job in Washington.
Subsequent requests for another high-level post have been rejected, Hicks’s attorney, Victoria Toensing, said in an interview, amounting to hints that he was “better off resigning.”
In a news conference in Rome on Thursday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said he has seen only “cursory” accounts of the hearing and that it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics. But, he said, “the State Department will leave no stone unturned” in responding to congressional inquiries.
Ventrell denied any retaliation, saying that Hicks’s departure from Libya was between regular department assignment cycles and that he is welcome to bid on upcoming jobs.
Some current and former colleagues noted that the State Department has at times been unfriendly to dissidents. But they questioned Hicks’s portrayal of his status. Hicks is an “FS-1,” a grade equivalent to a colonel in the military. As in the military, his failure to rise above that grade after 22 years in the Foreign Service would limit his options.
Despite indicating that he is seeking another overseas post, Hicks is the favored candidate to become vice president of the Foreign Service union.
Results, including ballots from those overseas, are due in June. The job, which includes serving as the chief negotiator for members within the State Department, is the full-time equivalent of a two-year Foreign Service assignment.
Anne Gearan in Rome contributed to this report.