Dec. 27 (UPI) — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has convened a working group to evaluate a report there are “systemic” problems with the way the Justice Department addresses misconduct allegations, a department spokesman said.
The reaction from Rosenstein came after the Inspector General for the Justice Department found multiple instances in which supervisors did not appropriately handle misconduct and sexual harassment complaints. The Washington Post first reported on the revelations Tuesday after reviewing documents it obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.
Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior told the Post and CNN that Rosenstein convened a “working group to look at the issues raised by the report. That process is nearing completion and we will soon be responding to the Inspector General with the department’s recommendations for action.”
The watchdog said some perpetrators of misconduct in the department were disciplined lightly, or later given bonuses or other performance awards. Meanwhile, complaints have increased over the past five years.
The Post said cases included a U.S. attorney who engaged in a sexual relationship with and sent harassing messages to a subordinate, a Civil Division lawyer who groped two female trial attorneys, and a chief deputy U.S. marshal who had sex with multiple women in his office. In all, the watchdog published reviews of 19 “substantiated allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct” from 2012 to 2016.
“When employees engage in such misconduct, it profoundly affects the victim and affects the agency’s reputation, undermines the agency’s credibility, and lowers employee productivity and morale,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote in a memo to Rosenstein in May. “Without strong action from the Department to ensure that DOJ employees meet the highest standards of conduct and accountability, the systemic issues we identified in our work may continue.”
Prior told CNN he wouldn’t discuss specific disciplinary actions taken against employees and placed the blame on the previous administration.
“That said, the department was very disappointed with the issues that occurred in the Obama administration and strives for a workplace free of harassment and other misconduct for all of our 115,000 employees,” he said.