The Washington Post

Justice Department officials violated nepotism rules, new report says

Eight Justice Department officials tried to get their children and other relatives hired at the department in violation of laws and regulations, according to a report released Thursday by the department’s inspector general.

The nepotism violations in the division that serves as the Justice Department’s management arm were revealed in the third investigation of the division in the past decade, according to Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz. His office found similar improper hiring practices in 2004 and 2008.

The officials involved are career, not political, employees and included the director and deputy director of facilities and administrative services; the director and two assistant directors of human resources; and a senior adviser to a deputy assistant attorney general in the division.

“The department takes seriously the findings in this report, and we are moving immediately to address the report’s findings,” said Gina Talamona, a Justice Department spokeswoman.

Talamona said the attorney general and the deputy attorney general have made clear to division leaders that such behavior will not be tolerated and that quick action must be taken.

The inspector general’s report found that several officials violated the federal nepotism statute by advocating the appointment of their relatives to positions. Some of them “improperly manipulated” the hiring process to ensure that their children or the children of other employees were appointed, the report said.

“Most of the misconduct described in this report — the nepotism, the prohibited personnel practices, the ethical lapses, the false and misleading statements — was the result of bad behavior by individuals insufficiently impressed with the principles of fair and open competition,” Horowitz said in the document.

In at least one case, the inspector found that two senior officials simultaneously attempted to assist each other’s relative in getting jobs at the department, the report said. And according to the findings, a deputy assistant attorney general did not respond adequately to warnings she received concerning the hiring of relatives of other employees.

“The report issued by the Department of Justice Inspector General today is alarming, especially given that the department has twice been warned about these illegal practices before. Nepotism has no place in any federal agency, and it is especially disturbing coming from the Department of Justice — the agency charged with enforcing the law,” Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who brought the latest nepotism allegations to the inspector general, said in a statement.

Lee J. Lofthus, the department’s assistant attorney general for administration, said the report about the Justice management division was “deeply disappointing.”

“While it was a small number of JMD staffs and individuals implicated . . . the report clouds all of JMD and was particularly troubling because it is the third time in eight years that [the inspector general] had identified similar violations,” he wrote in a response to the report.

Lofthus said he will institute better training and other immediate corrective actions recommended by the inspector general.

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department and criminal justice issues nationwide for The Washington Post, where she has been a reporter for 30 years.

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