by Joan Wadelton, Guest Contributor
This is a summary of a longer article that begins below the fold titled Background on My Case that sets out new developments in my lengthy battle with the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources (HR), including a July 2015 Report from State’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). This OIG Report finds that my allegations of corruption in HR are without merit by deftly avoiding examination of all available evidence. The Report is not only demonstrative of apparent corruption in the State Department, but also of a bureaucracy that has been allowed to run amok for years.
I have argued for many years in litigation, in the media, to the State Department's Office of Inspector General and to Congress, that State's Bureau of Human Resources has been engaged in corruption that has adversely affected the careers of too many Department employees including my own. I have also said that HR has been enabled by officials in the Offices of the Legal Adviser and the Inspector General.
In my own case, this apparent corruption appears to have involved HR's unlawful tampering with a long series of promotion boards held for me, using questionable results that forced me out of the Foreign Service.
My departure was the result of an apparent longstanding pattern of criminal behavior including the falsification of official government documents, interference with official government processes, perjury, forgery, evidence tampering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to do all of the above.
The State Department has fought me for 11 years – first in a grievance, now in both Federal District Court and in a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) case.
For various procedural reasons, no new evidence can be introduced into the Federal District Court not contained in the original grievance from which the District Court case arose. Indeed, several years ago, State fought vigorously to keep me from introducing evidence not included in the original grievance that would have been probative of my allegations. Now, however, State will attempt to introduce this July 2015 OIG report – no doubt to convince the judge that my claims are without merit and that the case should be dismissed.
In the separate FOIA case, State has fought equally vigorously to keep from responding to my requests. Astonishingly, the Department has recently revealed that attorneys from the OIG and the Office of the Legal Adviser have been working together on my case. This collaboration may represent an illegal conflict of interest under the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008.
As noted above, in addition to my complaints to Congress and the press, since 2002, I repeatedly asked State's OIG to investigate this matter. The OIG either ignored me or told me that my allegations were baseless.
Most recently, on September 3, 2014, I met face-to-face with State's current Inspector General (IG), Steve Linick, and his Deputy, Emilia DiSanto. During our 90-minute meeting, I laid out my evidence and in response to that meeting, the OIG opened an investigation.
On July 31, 2015, I was presented with an OIG “Information Report” that found my allegations to be without merit. The Report ignored a wide range of evidence demonstrating irregularities, including findings from my 2009 hearing before the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB), as well as what appear to be falsified documents from a set of 2011 reconstituted promotion boards. (See the analysis of a prominent forensic document examiner who I engaged that appears to substantiate this.) Download Wadelton, Joan Handwriting Analysis Final Prelim. Report
The July OIG Report was not hastily cobbled together – rather, it was carefully crafted to appear to examine evidence without actually doing so. However, by ignoring compelling evidence, the OIG has failed to produce an honest and credible investigation.
Management failures in security, in the letting and implementation of contracts, in personnel and so much more, are indicative of a dysfunctional institution. The next Secretary of State must replace current senior career managers and rein in a bureaucracy that spun out of control many years ago.
In addition, the next Administration – working with both parties in Congress – needs to reconfigure the State Department’s management portfolio. A new Secretary must devise and implement an organizational structure that divides senior responsibility for management into multiple components that prevent the consolidation of power in far too few hands -- as is the case today.
Continue reading longer article below.
Background on My Case
My official claims about irregularities in the Foreign Service promotion process began with a grievance in 2004 and eventually evolved into a case in Federal District Court. I suspended that case two years ago, with the hope that the problem would be resolved by the confirmation of a new Inspector General.
I have also had a parallel FOIA case for some time – which has proved to be little more than a vehicle to waste time and money in order to receive nothing of value. Indeed, so resistant to my FOIA requests was HR, that State imposed a double review of any documents to be released to me. That is -- completely outside of standard FOIA procedures -- documents were reviewed twice: both by the FOIA Office and State’s attorneys before I received them.
In fact, it is telling that the most useful information to come out of my FOIA lawsuit has been the arguments by State to withhold responsive records. For instance, State recently argued that the emails exchanged between the OIG Deputy General Counsel and the Office of the Legal Adviser were privileged “because the Office of the Legal Adviser served as OIG's legal representative in federal litigation” and the OIG's lawyer only “served in an advisory or “second chair” capacity with Legal Adviser attorneys having the lead responsibility.”
This admission stands in stark contrast to the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008, which requires OIGs to have their own general counsel and not use the agency's lawyers, as this could cause serious conflicts of interest should the OIG ever have to investigate the agency's general counsel's office. And yet, State admitted to this bizarre and probably illegal arrangement apparently to avoid releasing a single email chain to me about my case.
For a more detailed look at my case’s many twists and turns see the posts below published on WhirledView:
There are thousands of pages of documents stretching over 11 years in my case. For simplicity's sake, I will only address matters relating to two different sets of reconstituted promotion boards held for me – six boards in 2006 (resulting in a hearing before the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) in 2009) and six boards in 2011.
The 2009 Foreign Service Grievance Board Hearing Regarding my First Set of Six Reconstituted Promotion Boards Revealed Chaos, Incompetence and Corruption in HR
The 2009 FSGB hearing and subsequent ruling regarding six reconstituted promotion boards held for me in 2006 highlighted a clear pattern of incompetence, disarray and corruption in HR. These six boards ranked me at the bottom of candidates reviewed each time. Findings included:
– that board members questioned the final candidate rankings (including mine) of the boards they sat on;
– that boards were so chaotic as call into question their validity – board members and chairpersons not only did not know what the final candidate rankings were, they did not even know who the other members of their own boards were;
– that the results of three of the six boards had been reported out before the boards were held, and;
– that individuals whose signatures appeared on cover memos stating the results of the promotion boards in question denied having sat on those boards. (See WhirledView: Joan's Case Continued documenting Linda Thomas-Greenfield's (former Director General of the Foreign Service and current Assistant Secretary for African Affairs) email assertion that she had not, in fact, sat on any boards in 2006 – despite her signature on a cover memo announcing the results of one of my boards in that year.)
HR's 2011 Report on the Second Set of Six Reconstituted Promotion Boards Revealed that HR Had Simply Repeated the Questionable Practices of the First Set of Six Reconstituted Promotion Boards
Despite the evidence above, the FSGB's 2009 decision sent me back to HR for six more reconstituted boards – administered by the same people who had engineered the first ones. This resulted, not surprisingly, in six more boards which yet again ranked me at the bottom each time. The final report was passed to me in 2011.
Here are links to State's full report on these six 2011 reconstituted boards including the cover memos from each board with putative board members' names and signatures and all of the 36 score sheets attributed to those boards.
I have taken the liberty of rearranging the page order to attach the cover memos for each board with the score sheets that supposedly accompany each cover memo. I have also put them in the chronological order in which HR claims to have convened them.
See the 2011 Promotion Board Documents here:
Particularly Compelling Evidence – Gross Irregularities in the 2011 Score Sheets
The 36 score sheets in the seven links above are particularly important because they are filled with numerous irregularities. Although I have pointed out these irregularities in many fora, the State Department has never rebutted my allegations, nor claimed that the documents were authentic and untouched. Some of these irregularities are listed below.
1) While each score sheet should be the product of one single individual, a significant number of sheets show multiple handwritings.
2) While all six score sheets from one promotion board should record identical numbers in each grid, in many cases numbers do not match – both in the candidate rankings and the totals columns. For example, see page 377 of the 2005 Conal Board where there is no “Total Points” score recorded for me.
3) While candidate ranking totals should reflect the scores given by board members, and be mathematically credible, often they are not. The most egregious example of this is seen in the score sheets of the 2005 Classwide Board. Defying all credibility, the six experienced and educated officials -- individually and as a group – have given one candidate a score of “86” – although the highest possible score for any candidate is “60.”
4) Score sheets and cover memos should conform to standard promotion board practice and reason. For example, four of the six 2005 Conal Boards are missing the “Total Sheets.”
Some are missing many of the candidates' scores. For example, see the strange, single-column score sheets from the 2003 Multifunctional Board, (Download Jacobs2003multifunctional,) allegedly chaired by the State Department's former Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs and current FOIA “Transparency Czar,” Janice Jacobs.
Multiple OIG Investigations Over the Years Have Covered-up Problems with the Bureau of Human Resources
For many years now, the State Department's Office of Inspector General has failed to act on complaints of corruption in the State Department's Bureau of Human Resources.
The OIG claimed in its July 31, 2015 report on my case that it had conducted several investigations over the years pursuant to my allegations regarding the unlawful alteration of Foreign Service promotion board results. However, these reports were neither published nor made available to me.
The “Review of the Integrity and Fairness of the Foreign Service Selection Board Process” (March 2010) Made Troubling Discoveries which Appeared to Substantiate my Allegations
Until July 2015, only one OIG investigation examining claims of irregularities in Foreign Service promotion boards had been published:
Review of the Integrity and Fairness of the Foreign Service Selection Board Process (March 2010). This investigation took place between March 2009 and July 2009 and covered the years 2004-9 and clearly substantiated a number of my allegations. Oddly enough, while the report was posted on the OIG’s website in 2010 -- it has subsequently disappeared.
Although the Review is no longer available on the OIG website, here is an analysis of it on WhirledView:
Done in 2009 and published March 2010, the OIG Review examined a limited number of Foreign Service promotion boards (senior threshold boards among them) between 2004 and 2008. Both the timing and the findings of the March 2010 Review align with some of my allegations regarding my own treatment by HR.
Included in the now-disappeared March 2010 Review:
The OIG concludes that the processes by which annual boards promote, low-rank, and award Foreign Service personnel are fundamentally fair and trustworthy.
Despite this positive declaration, the March 2010 OIG Review also contains important and disturbing findings that clearly contradict the conclusion above. For example:
Several former board members asserted that HR/PE remitted lists to the Director General absent that board member's certification or with results at variance with the member's recollections.
OIG is aware of instances in which board members were alleged to have either improperly removed documents or attempted to introduce information not contained in a candidate's record.
In other words, the final results of promotion board deliberations and candidate rankings would have been unknown to board members who had not been able to certify the final document. Moreover, the candidate rankings arrived at through legitimate board deliberations were apparently subsequently changed by HR. Finally, according to the March 2010 OIG report, board members were guilty of tampering with candidates' records through addition or deletion of documents.
There is no indication in the Review that the OIG dealt with these findings of possible criminal wrongdoing in an appropriate manner.
My 90 Minute Meeting with Inspector General Steve Linick and Deputy Inspector General Emilia DiSanto in September, 2014, to Lay Out My Evidence
On September 3, 2014, I had a 90-minute, in-person meeting with Inspector General Steve Linick and his Deputy, Emilia DiSanto. Also present were two investigators that Linick was careful to note he had brought in from outside State – Paul Cooksey and William Stapleton. I walked the group through my allegations and evidence. A decision was made to pursue an investigation and several days later I spent 3½ hours going over the 2011 score sheets page-by-page with Cooksey and Stapleton. Both men quickly grasped my claims of irregularities such as multiple handwritings on a single score sheet, mathematical errors and more. Before long, the two were picking out such irregularities themselves.
Aside from several inconsequential communications between me and Cooksey and Stapleton, I heard nothing again until I was informed of the publication of their final report on Friday, July 31, 2015 by Stapleton.
In July 2015, the OIG Produces an Evidence-free “Information Report” Finding my Allegations to be Without Merit
On July 31, 2015, the OIG issued a report purportedly addressing my allegations regarding criminal wrongdoing by HR in my own case. This report ignored all of my evidence and key facts stemming primarily from the 2011 reconstituted boards. Predictably, this investigation found that my longstanding claims of wrongdoing by HR were baseless. The Report concluded that neither witness accounts nor documentary evidence support my allegations of tampering. See it here:
Information Report: Review of Former Department of State Employee's Allegation of Improper Denial of Promotion (July 2015) Download OIG ReportESP-15-06
Most of the Report is devoted to a review of my lengthy dispute with HR that is of little interest from an investigative standpoint. The relevant parts of the Report which focus primarily on the 2011 reconstituted promotion boards are found under the heading “RESULTS.” It is here that the OIG sets out its reasoning for concluding that no wrongdoing occurred. And strange reasoning it is.
OIG REPORT RESULTS: Witness Accounts Do Not Support Allegations that HR Manipulated Promotion Boards
Prominent in this section are the accounts of three of six individuals the OIG alleges sat on the six 2011 reconstituted promotion boards that produced the blatantly altered score sheets. Given the timing involved, these witnesses would have been testifying to an event that occurred 4-5 years previously.
The Report states that:
OIG contacted six former board members, one from each of the six reconstituted boards, and requested details about their procedures and deliberations...None of the six former board members...reported seeing or hearing anything that raised questions about the fairness of the proceedings.
Which raises the questions:
– Why would the OIG assume that board members would have been aware of problems? After all, alterations of the score sheets would have been done only after the board members had deliberated and turned their paperwork over to HR. So even if all six boards had proceeded in a regular fashion – because the alterations were done later and presumably out of sight -- board members would have left their deliberations believing that all was well.
– Who selected these six individuals to be interviewed – HR? The OIG? The Under Secretary for Management who has jurisdiction over HR? What were the criteria for selection?
– Did these witnesses speak under oath?
– Did OIG staff review relevant documents with the witnesses? For example, what did the witness chosen from the 2011 repeat of the 2005 Classwide Board say upon reviewing the score sheets their panel allegedly produced – score sheets with the impossible “86s?”
– While the Report references OIG contact with six board members, it only produces statements from three – where is the testimony of the other three?
– And as there were 36 board members total (six panels with six board members each), what are we to make of the absence of the other 30?
-- Were the six selected asked to attest to the presence of the others?
The Report sets out summarized versions of the testimony of three of these six referenced witnesses.
– Witness #1 recalls in some detail the conduct of his board, declaring that all went as it should have;
– Witness #2 seems to have a somewhat less detailed recall of the events of his board, but nonetheless testifies as to its fairness and effectiveness;
– it is Witness #3 whose testimony is so outlandish as to negate the veracity of these accounts. She states that:
she was familiar with the complainant's name from a media report that mentioned complainant's grievances, but…did not speak of this knowledge to other board members.
Quite a feat of soothsaying, since I did not go on the record with my allegations until well after I had left State – a year or more after the boards in question were held. Furthermore, if this witness realized that I was the grievant, according to standard HR practice, she should have recused herself (in fact, the Lishman/Ash procedural memo of March 1, 2011 Download Lishman-Ashcovermemo confirms this by saying that the “name of the grievant was not given to any board member”).
In summary, the 2015 OIG Information Report demonstrates many failings, among them:
– the faulty assumption that board members would have known about likely subsequent unlawful alterations of documents;
– purposely limiting the number of interviews with board members (only six out of 36); and
– not reporting testimony of half their witnesses – omitting the comments of three of the six they claim to have interviewed.
We cannot know what really happened in the OIG's interviews with alleged board members. Or even if there really were such interviews. However, we can say that the Information Report's presentation of witness testimony is so limited, so vague and – in the case of witness #3 – so nonsensical – as to be of no probative value whatsoever.
OIG REPORT RESULTS: Forensic Analysis Does Not Support Allegations of Fraudulent Alteration
This section purports to examine the physical evidence of my allegations – that is, criminal tampering with various documents – through handwriting analysis by an expert from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of:
– the board members' original 2011 reconstituted promotion board score sheets;
– a ranked and ordered cover memorandum for each reconstituted board listing the personnel files in rank order from highest score to lowest, signed by each board member; and
– a one-page oath of office form signed by each board member.
As the oaths of office were not included in the documents concerning the 2011 boards, only the cover memoranda and score sheets (linked in the seven separate segments above) are analyzed here.
So what does the Information Report say about the score sheets? Just this:
The forensic expert's physical, microscopic, and instrumental examination found erasures, cross-outs, and corrections on multiple score sheets documents. However, such erasures, cross-outs, and corrections are consistent with the accounts of board member witnesses who reported that such changes constituted a part of their group deliberation process. As board members discussed candidates and weighed each other's views to reach consensus, they adjusted their scores accordingly.
It is impossible to know if there really was an analysis provided by DHS. If so, and it was authentic, this is certainly not it. A complete analysis of the 48 pages in question would total some 60 pages or better, including charts and graphs. The analysis here consists of one paragraph of 7 ¼ sentences – or about 1/7 of a page.
Where, then, are the other 59 6/7 pages? And what do they say?
And why is the complete DHS package not attached to this OIG Information Report?
Normal handwriting analysis is done with original documents, and exemplars of the writing of the individuals involved, but the State Department has consistently denied me access to them. Nevertheless, my own, prominent board certified forensic document/ handwriting examiner arrived at some disturbing preliminary observations by reviewing just a small sampling of non-original score sheets.
Here is her report:
Wadelton – Preliminary Private Document and Handwriting Analysis (October 2015) Download Wadelton, Joan Handwriting Analysis Final Prelim. Report
A few highlights:
– it seems significant to point out the fact that the Wadelton scores were consistently lowered through alteration;
– Many of the questioned score sheets demonstrate under-developed writing, in this case meaning writing that is executed at a low skill level...This is surprising in view of the fact the Board Members are all accomplished and highly educated individuals; and
– there are indications that certain of the questioned Promotion Board Score Sheets contain the handwriting of more than one individual;
– and -- while HR apparently wants us to believe that the 2011 redo of the 2005 Conal Review Board “Total Sheet” (page 377) was filled in by all six of the board members copying over scores from their own personal score sheets into it – in fact, that was not the case. The handwriting of board members whose personal score sheets appear on pages 380, 382, 383 and 378 does appear on the Total Sheet. However, the handwriting on pages 379 and 381 does not match anything on the Total Sheet. Nor does the writing in the “Total Points” column on the “Total Sheet” match any other writing in the series.
In summary, forensic document and handwriting analysis of just a sampling of documents by an outside expert, substantiates my longstanding allegations of tampering with documents claimed by HR to be the results of the promotion boards reconstituted for me.
Take-away from the July 2015 OIG Information Report – None of My Allegations are Addressed
Not a single one of my allegations is addressed in this OIG report. That is, none of the four questions raised above (multiple handwritings on one page, inconsistent candidate rankings within one board, mathematically nonsensical results, and/or failure to adhere to normal promotion board procedures) are examined. Nor are solutions to the disturbing fact pattern proposed.
Now the State Department Will Introduce this Evidence-free OIG Report into Federal District Court
State Department attorneys will soon be introducing this OIG Information Report as evidence in my case against the Department in Federal District Court. Although that case was suspended two years ago, and new evidence no longer allowed, the Department will nonetheless move to have the case dismissed, based on the OIG's finding that my allegations are without merit. This is not surprising, however. It is consistent with the State Department's use of falsified evidence in my case going back many years.
What is arguably worse, though, is that State currently refuses to admit that it is introducing the OIG report to prove its case. State's attorneys instead say they will introduce the report as “part of the background to this case,” but that the “document is not to be made part of the Administrative Record relating to the decisions at issue.”
In other words, after fighting and winning a battle to keep me from giving new evidence to the court three years ago, State is now fighting to introduce new evidence which it claims is only needed to flesh out the procedural history of the case. Which could be easily done by simply saying “And then the OIG did an investigation.” When in reality the only reason for introducing the actual OIG Report can be the possibility of prejudicing the judge by informing her that the OIG has found my allegations to be without merit.
Certainly State Senior Management Knows About This
Senior management in HR and the Legal Adviser’s Office are no doubt fully briefed on my case. And – with the publication of this latest 2015 OIG Information Report -- the OIG has demonstrated that it is amenable to covering up or ignoring inconvenient truths.
I have informed other State Department officials who currently have direct authority over HR about my case over the years. I sent Deputy Secretary for Management, Heather Higginbottom, a package laying out my allegations and evidence early in her tenure at State, but never heard back from her. I had multiple email exchanges with Under Secretary of State for Management, Patrick Kennedy, for several years early in this dispute – to no avail. And I discussed my escalating problems with HR with Jennifer Park Stout – now Secretary Kerry's Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration – when she was a staffer for then-Senator Jim Webb (D-VA); she was not responsive.
I Will Make the Same Recommendations I Have Been Making for Years: Clean up the Corruption and Make Competent Management a Top Priority
Let us hope that a new Administration and a new Congress take on State Department reform with a vengeance. The two most critical problems that must be corrected are an agency-wide culture that not only tolerates but rewards gross mismanagement. And of course the corruption that has resulted from this deliberate and purposeful refusal to manage must be eliminated.
The next Administration must remove career staff who are involved in this and other wrongdoing – people who have been around for decades and currently control the administrative components of the Department.
The OIG itself must be made independent of the State Department’s General Counsel’s Office in compliance with federal law. And a new, independent and effective Inspector General must be brought in to root out corruption, address mismanagement and propose and implement viable solutions.
Moreover, the organization of the State Department's administrative and logistical functions must be reconfigured into a new and more rational structure. See my proposal:
The current failure of administrative functions must be reversed. As is unfortunately evident from events of the last decade, US foreign policy cannot be successfully implemented resting upon such chaotic and corrupt underpinnings. The American people deserve much, much better than this.