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Inspector general probe finds nepotism in Justice Department Justice unit

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer
updated 5:07 PM EDT, Thu July 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • This is the third investigation of such allegations in the department
  • Two executives allegedly colluded to hire each other's children, the report says
  • Several other incidents of relatives being hired also were found, it says

Washington (CNN) -- Eight employees of the management division of the Justice Department violated laws and regulations by seeking to have their relatives hired for high-level jobs in the department, or ignored evidence of such violations, according to an inspector general's report released Thursday.

The practices, described by one official as "egregious," were discovered in the third investigation of the department's Justice Management Division in the past decade. Similar improper hiring practices were found by the department's inspector general in investigations in 2004 and 2008. Despite those critical reports, the practices continued, the report says.

The inspector general alleged "collusion between the Department of Justice's Office of Personnel and the Facilities and Administrative Services staff to illegally hire each other's family."

Human Resources Assistant Director Pamela Cabell-Edelen and Facilities and Administrative Services Director Edward Hamilton hired each other's children, the report says. Hamilton chose Cabell-Edelen's daughter to be his secretary in 2009. Hamilton then promptly began pushing a job for his son in Cabell-Edelen's office, and the son was hired.

Both executives are accused of lying to inspector general investigators about their actions, the report says.

The Justice Management Division is an important part of the Justice Department, as it is responsible for a wide range of issues including the Justice Department budget, financial matters, human resources, facilities and administrative services. It is the only division headed by a career employee rather than a presidentially nominated employee.

Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus has headed the division since 2006. He is a 30-year Justice Department employee who worked his way up through the ranks as a financial officer and controller.

In other cases highlighted by the report, the daughter of the facilities deputy was hired by a human resources assistant director, and the facilities official then sought to help the human resources official find a job for her brother.

Both the son and the niece of the senior adviser to the deputy assistant attorney general for human resources were hired for posts on the finance staff and human resources staff, the report says.

Also, the report says both the nephew and the cousin of the human resources director were hired to the National Security Division and the budget staff, respectively.

The 100-page report also says the probe revealed the common practice of hiring friends and relatives of Justice Management Division employees for paid summer clerkships and paid internships.

The inspector general noted the 2008 report had recommended "remedial ethics training and the establishment of a zero tolerance policy" for future violations of this type.

The report scolds Mari Barr Santangelo, who was responsible for implementing the recommendations and taking necessary actions. Investigators said she had made only "limited inquiries"

"In sum, we believe that there were management deficiencies in Santangelo's supervision of hiring practices in (the Justice Management Division) and we refer this report to (the division) for the action that it deems appropriate," the report says.

Cabell-Edelen has retired. Others involved who remain with the Justice Department could face disciplinary action ranging from reprimands to removal, according to department spokeswoman Gina Talamona.

In a brief response, the department vowed to "move immediately to address the report's findings."

"The attorney general and deputy attorney general have made it very clear to Justice Department Management leadership that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, that the department must maintain a zero tolerance policy, and that swift and decisive action must be taken to deal with those involved in these activities," it said.

But nobody has to worry about jail time. The inspector general found insufficient evidence that any criminal statutes had been violated, Talamona said.

The report notes that in September 2010, a former Justice Department employee told Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, chairman of the Justice Appropriations subcommittee, that the improper practices were continuing. He passed the information to the inspector general, triggering the latest investigation.

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