WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal watchdog found that eight Drug Enforcement Administration employees investigated over sexual misconduct allegations later improperly received cash bonuses and performance awards from the agency.
The Justice Department's inspector general issued findings Thursday in its review of whether any of 14 employees implicated in questionable behavior later received favorable personnel actions.
An IG report in March detailed three episodes of serious misconduct, including agents who admitted having sex with prostitutes while stationed overseas. Among the allegations were that DEA agents attended sex parties funded by local drug cartels and took cash, expensive gifts and weapons.
Though some of the agents and their supervisors were issued reprimands or suspended from duty for between two and 10 days, the review found eight still received thousands of dollars in merit bonuses.
DEA policy generally prohibits employees from getting such rewards for a period of three years after being disciplined for misconduct or while an investigation is pending. Though "integrity checks" are required before an employee is rewarded, the review found DEA failed to follow the agency's procedures.
In a statement, DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said the agency welcomed the IG's review and accepted the report's recommendations. The agency has established new protocols to improve internal communication, she said.
"We hold our employees to the highest of standards and know that criticism makes us better," Carreno said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questioned Thursday why the agents involved in the sexual misconduct and those who failed to report weren't fired. One regional director received four performance awards and bonuses totaling more than $68,000 over a four-year period.
"It is troubling that supervisors who looked the other way at employee misconduct received substantial bonuses," said Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "Rewarding bad apples promotes a toxic work environment. It destroys morale and is a disservice to the majority of hard-working federal employees who play by the rules."