The powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has lost confidence in Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart, according to a statement from a majority of the panel Wednesday.
“After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive ‘good old boy’ culture that exists throughout the agency,” the message said.
The statement, signed by 13 Democrats and nine Republicans, came less than three weeks after a Justice Department inspector general review revealed that DEA agents had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels.
Leonhart, who has led the DEA since 2007, testified before the oversight committee Wednesday that she regards the findings as “significantly troubling” and does “not take them lightly.”
However, she said civil service protections limit what she can do about the issue.
“I do not have the authority to simply terminate employees at will,” she said in her written testimony. “This is not because I am being overly cautious, but because federal employees have certain constitutional due-process rights.”
Leonhart noted that the DEA has so far addressed the alleged misconduct by amending its personnel manual and issuing an agency-wide memo to clarify appropriate conduct. But her remarks did little to quell the concerns of most committee members.
“From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position,” the statement said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who heads the oversight panel, said late Tuesday that President Obama should fire Leonhart if she does not resign her position, according to an Associated Press report.