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Justice Department division cited for 'lack of professionalism'

March 12, 2013|By Richard A. Serrano
  • Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., head of the Justice Department.
Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., head of the Justice Department. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- An independent review of the Voting Section in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has found a “disappointing lack of professionalism” by many of the career and political employees over the last two administrations, including a polarizing culture that has prompted many staffers to vent their frustrations by sending personal emails and blog postings filled with epithets.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is sending his findings to top officials in the Department concerning at least three employees still working in the division for possible “discipline or other administration action.” Many others involved in similar conduct, they said, have left the Justice Department.

The IG report said the hard feelings and sore conduct was so widespread that it lasted  “over an extended period of time, during two administrations and across various facets of the Voting Section’s operations.”

In one instance, blog comments were posted comparing conservative employees to “Nazis” and another referred to a fellow worker as having “yellow fever” because the employee looked “Asian.”

In a second example, employees complained in a posting that the section’s policies were bigoted against blacks. And a conservative employee was denigrated as someone who lived in a neighborhood where “everyone wears a white sheet, the darkies say ‘yes’m,’ and equal rights for all are the real ‘land of make believe.’”

In a third instance, an African American employee told the inspector general that he was assigned only for racial reasons to help handle a voter intimidation complaint in Mississippi where blacks allegedly harassed whites.

He said conservative career employees told him, “They only wanted you down there because you are a black face.” Otherwise, he said he was told, “How would it look for four white men down there prosecuting all those black people? They wanted you down there to show that it is not white against black.”

[For the Record, 9:30 a.m. PST  March 13: This post has been updated to reflect new information on the inspector general's report.]

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richard.serrano@latimes.com

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