WASHINGTON — Several Drug Enforcement Administration agents received thousands of dollars in agency bonuses and other work performance awards either while they were subjects of a sexual misconduct inquiry, or shortly after, in violation of agency policy, a Justice Department internal inquiry concluded.
Eight of 14 agents and supervisors whose alleged activities with prostitutes while posted out of the country was outlined earlier this year by the Justice Department’s inspector general, were found to have received monetary benefits or other recognition, including a regional director who received $68,600 in bonuses shortly after the director was investigated for failing to report the sexual misconduct of at least two agents, according to a new inspector general review. All of the bonus money was awarded within four years of the investigation’s launch.
Of that total, the inspector general expressed specific concern with a $12,000 award received just more than a year after the investigation began.
The two agents under the direction of the regional director received bonuses of $2,000 and $1,500, respectively, less than a month after they emerged as subjects of the misconduct review initiated in June 2010.
While none of the agents received work-related promotions, five of 10 employees who were investigated for their alleged participation in alleged sex parties with prostitutes supplied by local drug cartels in Colombia received performance or time-off awards valued between $1,900 and $4,500.
In the initial Colombia review, the inspector general concluded that seven of the 10 agents allegedly involved admitted attending the parties in Colombia where a local police officer often stood guard, protecting the agents’ firearms and other property.
“The DEA’s policy states that employees who are subjects of significant ongoing misconduct are not eligible for favorable personnel action unless DEA officials are able to make a determination as to the likely outcome of a particular case,” the new inspector general review found. “However, we found that many employees who received awards while misconduct investigations were pending were later suspended for their misconduct, making such favorable determination very unlikely.”
In a written response to the inspector general’s new report, Michael Dixon, the DEA’s acting deputy chief of inspections, said the agency has implemented new procedures in its review of bonuses and other awards in an attempt to flag cases that would disqualify potential recipients because of ongoing misconduct investigations.
“The…inspector general review was necessary and important, and we welcome it,” the agency said in a separate statement Thursday. “We have accepted all of its recommendations. “Prior to the issuance of that report, DEA established new protocols to improve internal communication. These changes were designed to ensure that individuals subject to disciplinary action as a result of serious misconduct do not improperly receive promotions, bonuses or other favorable personnel actions.”
Criticism of the DEA’s personnel operations have not been limited to reviews by the Justice inspector general. Last month, agency records obtained by USA TODAY showed that the DEA allowed employees to remain on the job despite internal investigations that found they were involved in the distribution of drugs, lied to authorities or committed other misconduct.
Of 50 employees that the DEA’s Board of Professional Conduct recommended for firing following misconduct investigations launched since 2010, 13 were terminated, according to the records. The agency was forced to take some of those fired employees back after a federal appeals board intervened.