Justice Department officials accused of nepotism in hiring

WASHINGTON — Eight senior Justice Department administrative employees should be disciplined for seeking jobs there for their children and other relatives, and officials need to tighten their employment guidelines after three nepotism incidents in recent years, the inspector general said Thursday.

In the latest cases, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s report said 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” hiring competition.

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.

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 among its facilities and administrative services, human relations, finance and budget staffs. There were similar findings in 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 would pursue disciplinary actions against the eight individuals “as appropriate” and make changes to ensure fair hiring practices.

The investigation was started after a September 2010 complaint from Rep.Frank R. Wolf(R-Va.) of hiring improprieties at the Justice Department. “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 the any federal agency, and it is especially disturbing coming from the Department of Justice.”

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

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

Among the findings, investigators determined that in some instances, employees were urging that each other’s relatives be hired. Human Resources Assistant Director Pamela Cabell-Edelen and Facilities Staff Director Edward A. Hamilton Sr. “engaged in nepotism by hiring each other’s children,” the report said.

One of the more egregious cases involved Cabell-Edelen, who the report said “undertook a sustained campaign” to get her daughter hired. She “repeatedly advocated” on her behalf for various Justice Department positions, and finally Hamilton hired her as his secretary in November 2009.

The daughter of Michael Clay, deputy director of the facilities staff, was hired by Human Resources Director Jeanarta McEachron, and in “related efforts” Clay tried to get McEachron’s brother hired on his staff.

The son and niece of Nancy Horkan, senior advisor to Mari Barr Santangelo, the deputy assistant attorney general for human resources, were hired on the finance and human resources staffs. And the nephew and cousin of Rodney E. Markham, the human resources director, were hired by the department’s National Security Division and the budget staff.