FBI boss gone from L.A. after watchdog finds top agents got exclusive Dodgers playoff seats
The top FBI agent in Los Angeles departed this month in the wake of a U.S. Justice Department Inspector General’s report that found he was responsible for violations of federal ethics requirements and FBI policies by holding a meeting with his management team in an exclusive club at Dodger Stadium during the playoffs two years ago and allowing them to indulge in the free buffet.
Paul Delacourt was reassigned earlier this month from his post overseeing the L.A. regional office, a position that carries the rank of assistant director. Delacourt has disputed the report’s findings.
Eight FBI officials sat in the prestigious Stadium Club with an “unobstructed view of the field” as the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series two years ago, according to the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz made public this week.
Seven of those present dined at the buffet and one top intelligence chief drank a beer, the report said, but no one from the bureau paid for the luxury seats and food.
“Surrounded, at times by fans at other tables” the FBI brass in L.A. would briefly discuss sensitive intelligence subjects, the report said.
Use of the exclusive seating and buffet violated federal ethics regulations and FBI policy prohibiting the acceptance of gifts, the report concluded.
The report cited Special Agent In Charge Voviette Morgan, who oversees the FBI criminal investigations in L.A., for initiating the arrangement and Delacourt for approving it. Delacourt and Morgan showed “poor judgment,” and Delacourt was criticized for allowing discussion of sensitive information, the IG’s office said.
Attorneys for Delacourt and Morgan did not respond to requests for comment.
At least one member of the management team raised serious concerns about the “optics” of the meeting location, and the FBI special events coordinator had advised against the venue.
The 50-page investigation reviewed more than 32,000 documents. It found that Delacourt failed to disclose to Deputy Director David Bowdich in Washington the full nature of the of the amenities, calling it a sandwich lunch. The buffet included carving stations, salad bars, desserts, pizzas and Dodger Dogs, the inspector general noted. Bowdich said “he envisioned “Costco sandwiches” at the command post.
Morgan remains in charge of criminal investigations in the Los Angeles region. The San Francisco FBI office special agent in charge, John Bennett, is now acting head of the L.A. office. Bureau officials said the transfer is not punitive.
Delacourt disputed that he did not provide full details to Bowdich.
In the wake of the Oct. 15 meeting, an FBI attorney advised that those who attended might each need to pay about $500 back to the Dodgers to reimburse the club adequately. But Delacourt, the report said, disagreed, saying it was a work assignment.
“We remain troubled that an FBI executive with Delacourt’s experience still, to this day, does not recognize this failing,” the report noted. A limited version of the report was released in July, Politico obtained the full report through a freedom of information request.
Lawrence Berger, an attorney for Delacourt, told Politico his client’s transfer was not considered punishment under FBI policy and no discipline has been imposed on the accused officials as a result of the incident.
It is not the first time, agents assigned to L.A. have been censured over a sporting event. A footnote in the report noted a decade ago, a special agent in charge at the Los Angeles office resigned after coming under scrutiny for accepting National Basketball Association tickets.
According to the report, the officials later paid $20 per person to a Dodgers charity to cover the cost of the meal, after the bureau was told the cost was $87. But the inspector general learned that the baseball team valued the buffet at $62.95 a person.
Morgan told investigators the meeting was conceived after finding a need for many new members of the leadership team to assess stadium security for potential World Series games.
Delacourt told investigators he wasn’t there to watch a baseball game, but to familiarize himself with the stadium for high-profile events during the 65-minute meeting.
Morgan said it was Delacourt’s decision to accept the food, and it was her concern that they receive no special treatment. She compared it to the “complimentary perks when one is a frequent guest at a Las Vegas hotel,” according to the report.
Discussion of sensitive information was relatively short in the meeting, the inspector general said. But at least three items mentioned by the intelligence Special Agent In Charge Stephen Woolery are blacked out in the IG’s report. During the game, Woolery drank a beer in violation of the bureau policy, the report noted.
The day after the game, an ethics expert in the office raised questions with Delacourt about the events.
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