WASHINGTON – The latest embarrassing episode involving a drunken Secret Service agent overseas for a presidential trip was an isolated incident, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said Tuesday.
Pierson and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with senators from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to talk about the incident involving an agent found drunk in a hotel in the Netherlands last month.
Johnson spent about 15 minutes with the lawmakers while Pierson answered questions in the closed-door meeting for about an hour. Homeland Security said Johnson went to the meeting to show his support for Pierson.
In her written statement, Pierson told lawmakers she has "made clear to the entire workforce that I will not tolerate unprofessional behavior or misconduct at any level — both on and off duty."
"I remain committed to swiftly and vigorously addressing any instances of misconduct that are brought to my attention and have instructed my senior staff to do the same," Pierson said. "In addition to instituting and clearly communicating a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to misconduct, I recognize the need to put equal weight on continuously improving our human capital policies and practices."
Pierson was appointed director last year after then-Director Mark Sullivan retired almost a year after a South American prostitution scandal made world-wide headlines.
Thirteen agents and officers were accused of partying with female foreign citizens at a hotel in the seaside resort of Cartagena, Colombia, where they were staying before President Barack Obama's arrival for a Latin American summit. Some of the women were prostitutes and incident came to light after an agent had a fight with one prostitute over payment in the hallway of a hotel where the agents were staying in advance of Obama's arrival.
Since then, there have been a handful of other incidents and details of previous misconduct allegations have come to light.
Weeks before the incident in the Netherlands two agents in Florida were involved in a traffic accident that The Washington Post reported involved alcohol. Neither of the agents in that case was charged by local police.
Pierson said that incident and the events in the Netherlands don't represent the entire agency. "This is isolated incidents of misconduct and we are working to correct that every day," Pierson told reporters after the meeting.
After the Colombia scandal, Sullivan issued a series of new conduct rules, including ordering agents and officers to stop drinking 10 hours before reporting to duty. Agents and officers have also been ordered to drink alcohol only "in moderate amounts while off duty" or on temporary assignment, according to an updated Secret Service professional conduct manual obtained by The Associated Press.
Committee Chairman Tom Carper, who has previously said he was "troubled" by the recent reports of misconduct, said Tuesday "there are a handful of members of the Secret Service who are shaming, and smearing" the agency's reputation.
The Delaware Democrat said Pierson is continuing to implement new disciplinary policies and has his support.
Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/acaldwellap