WASHINGTON — A former senior Justice Department official allegedly sexually assaulted a woman who worked under him at the department, according to a report released late Tuesday by the department’s inspector general. The official also sexually harassed at least three other women who were also subordinates, including one who was pressured into a sexual relationship in exchange for a promotion, the report said.
The two-page report is light on details. It does not name the official or provide any dates for when the alleged abuse and harassment took place. It does say that the official worked in the Office of Justice Programs, an arm of the Justice Department that administers grants to state and local law enforcement agencies and publishes research on criminal justice issues.
The inspector general’s office said in its report that investigators “substantiated” that the official made repeated “verbal sexual advances” toward one of his female subordinates “and ultimately sexually assaulted her.” The office also found that the official sexually harassed the one employee pressured into a relationship in exchange for a promotion, as well as two other employees “by engaging in sexually inappropriate conduct toward them.”
“The [Office of the Inspector General] concluded that the senior DOJ official’s actions constituted ethical misconduct, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, all in violation of law, federal regulations, and DOJ policy,” the summary says.
The official at issue has since retired, and prosecutors declined to bring charges against him, according to the report. It doesn’t specify who made the decision not to prosecute, or when the official retired.
The Justice Department’s Inspector General’s Office routinely releases short summaries of its investigations when they involve senior officials, but it does not name them in those initial public reports. The office has released additional information, although not always the names of officials involved, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. BuzzFeed News is involved in pending litigation about redacted information in Justice Department inspector general reports.
Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in a statement that, "The Department of Justice does not tolerate sexual harassment, abuse, or assault in the workplace in any form. As the findings stated, the official accused of this conduct is no longer employed by the Department. The Department of Justice is committed to cooperating with state and local authorities to ensure these matters are investigated fully and expeditiously and will take appropriate action against those who engage in this wholly unacceptable behavior."
The Justice Department initially referred a request for comment to the inspector general's office; a spokesperson for that office recommended BuzzFeed News file a Freedom of Information Act request for additional information.
In the case of the employee involved in a relationship with the official, investigators found that the official didn’t take any steps to ensure they didn’t violate federal regulations about maintaining impartiality and the appearance of impartiality in the workplace. The Inspector General’s Office also found that the official “lacked candor” in what he told investigators.
The Inspector General’s Office doesn’t have any power to punish employees when it finds evidence of misconduct — it can only refer its findings to the appropriate offices within the Justice Department. The summary released Tuesday concludes by stating that the Inspector General’s Office referred its findings to the Office of Justice Programs.
The Inspector General’s Office earlier this year published a summary of a case where it found that a supervisory attorney sexually harassed a subordinate. Last year, the Inspector General’s Office released a report identifying “significant weaknesses” in how another Justice Department office, the Civil Division, responded to allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.
The Civil Division report found few reported allegations, but identified a few situations in which the penalties for misconduct seemed too low. In one case, a male attorney accused of groping two female attorneys received a written reprimand for “inappropriate touching” but no suspension or loss in pay or grade, despite the fact that he’d been disciplined in the past for sending inappropriate emails of a “sexual nature.”
Updated with comment from Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec.