Published August 15, 2012
The top Homeland Security official accused of cultivating a "frat-house"-style work environment has "voluntarily placed herself on leave" amid an internal review, the department told FoxNews.com late Tuesday evening -- just hours after FoxNews.com contacted the agency about new allegations against her.
The official, Suzanne Barr, is chief of staff for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Two more ICE employees came forward this week to complain about "lewd" conduct inside the agency, submitting sworn affidavits that depict graphic comments made by two top officials working under DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The affidavits were given as part of a discrimination and retaliation suit filed earlier this year by James T. Hayes Jr., the head of the New York office for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The two new affidavits described separate incidents in 2009. Both accounts described the actions of Barr, who was also mentioned in Hayes' lawsuit.
ICE Public Affairs Director Brian Hale said in a written statement that the department would respond "directly and strongly" to the lawsuit in court, but noted internal measures were being taken over the claims against Barr.
"ICE has referred these allegations to the DHS Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility for review. Ms. Barr has voluntarily placed herself on leave pending the outcome of this review," ICE Public Affairs Director Brian Hale said in a written statement.
In the newly emerging affidavits, one of the employees claimed that in October 2009, while in a discussion about Halloween plans, the individual witnessed Barr turn to a senior ICE employee and say: "You a sexy" (expletive deleted).
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"She then looked at his crotch and asked, 'How long is it anyway?'" according to the affidavit.
"Several employees laughed nervously," the affidavit said. The names of the workers making the claims have been redacted.
The other account recalled a trip to Colombia in late 2009, attended by ICE Director John Morton, Barr and Ray Parmer, who is ICE special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in New Orleans.
The account said Parmer and Barr were "drinking heavily" at the house of the deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy there. It said Parmer took the BlackBerry of another employee, Peter Vincent, and sent "lewd messages" to Barr.
The affidavit went on to say: "During this party, Suzanne Barr approached me and offered to" perform oral sex.
The two accounts were submitted this week to the defense attorney in the case Hayes filed against Napolitano.
A DHS spokesman had previously described the allegations in the Hayes suit as "unfounded."
Attorney Morris Fischer, who represents Hayes, told FoxNews.com his team is in the process of gathering more evidence.
"People are coming out of the woodwork on this because this is such a serious matter and people want to see this agency's mess cleaned up," he said.
While Napolitano is named as the sole defendant, Hayes' suit focuses on Barr and Dora Schriro, who joined DHS in February 2009, five months after Hayes was promoted to director of ICE Detention and Removal Operations.
Hayes claims Schriro, who was brought on as a special adviser to Napolitano, was not qualified for the job because she lacked law enforcement experience. Hayes maintained Schriro enjoyed a "long-standing relationship" with Napolitano, and soon pushed him aside "because of this relationship (with Napolitano) and because he was not female," the suit says.
Schriro previously led the Arizona and Missouri corrections departments. She has since left DHS and now serves as commissioner for the New York City Department of Correction.