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Justice Department employees accused of nepotism, ethical lapses

July 26, 2012|By Richard A. Serrano
  • The Inspector General's Office has called for disciplinary actions against eight Department of Justice employees.
The Inspector General's Office has called for disciplinary actions… (Wikimedia Commons )

WASHINGTON -- Eight senior Department of Justice administrative employees should be disciplined for seeking jobs for their children and other relatives, and the department needs to tighten its employment guidelines after three nepotism incidents in recent years, the Inspector General’s Office said Thursday.

In the latest cases, the inspector general’s report determined that within certain departments, a culture of “nepotism, ethical lapses and misleading statements was the result of bad behavior by individuals insufficiently impressed with the principles of fair and open” job hiring competition.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said he expected the Justice Department to take disciplinary action against the employees who sought favoritism for their relatives in landing internships and full-time positions at Justice.

The report brought a quick response from the Justice Department, where officials said they were all the more embarrassed that nepotism was continuing at the department’s Justice Management Division and its Facilities and Administrative Services, Human Relations, Finance and Budget staffs. There were similar findings of those divisions in 2004 and 2008.

“The results of this investigation were very disappointing to me,” said Lee J. Lofthus, assistant attorney general for administration. He promised “appropriate and immediate corrective actions to ensure the problems are not repeated.”

Lofthus added that he will pursue disciplinary actions against the eight individuals “as appropriate,” and make changes to ensure fair hiring practices. “We will work to that end,” he said.

The investigation was launched after a September 2010 complaint from Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) of hiring improprieties at the Department of Justice. “I expect the employees involved in this nepotism ring to be punished under the full extent of the law,” he said Thursday. “Nepotism has no place in any federal agency, and it is especially disturbing coming from the Department of Justice.”

According to Horowitz's report, eight current or former Justice officials, all senior-level employees, “violated applicable statutes and regulations” in seeking jobs for relatives. Since May 2008, the report said, many were actually hired, including five daughters, three sons, a cousin, a nephew, a niece and two granddaughters.

In addition, another daughter was offered a summer clerkship but she later turned it down, and separate attempts were made to find a job for an employee’s brother.

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richard.serrano@latimes.com

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