Former G-Men Retire to Top Jobs: Secret Service Agents Are Exploiting a Loophole in Civil-Service Rules to Assume High-Level, High-Paying Jobs Some May Be Unqualified for in Offices of Inspectors General. (the Nation: Federal Law Enforcement)

Article excerpt

At a time when federal law enforcement finds its resources stretched to the limit with the war on terrorism, an increasing number of retired U.S. Secret Service agents are taking advantage of an anomaly in the retirement system, unavailable to other federal law-enforcement agents, that gives them complete retirement benefits even if they return to service as full-time investigators in other government agencies, INSIGHT has learned. One result of the legal but controversial special treatment extended to Secret Service retirees has been the packing of federal Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs) with a "good-old-boy" network of former agents who frequently lack the specialized investigative skills needed to carry out the missions of the internal watchdog agencies, according to critics of this so-called "double-dipping" practice.

Payment of full retirement benefits, along with postretirement salaries as federal investigators, enables Secret Service retirees to earn incomes far above those of members of Congress and even of the Cabinet. This bypassing of the normal rules of the federal personnel system--which are applied to all other job applicants, no matter how qualified--has allowed retired Secret Service agents to compete unfairly for jobs within the federal IG community, say rivals and other critics, and to network their colleagues into OIG positions throughout government.

One example is the OIG at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As previously reported by INSIGHT [see "Who Is Guarding the HUD Guards?" March 18-31], the OIG there has been accused of patterns and practices of cronyism and patronage. "The Secret Service guys end up getting hired, and it is claimed that their relevant experience comes from a background in credit-card fraud and counterfeiting investigations," says former HUD OIG assistant special agent in charge James Malloy. "But counterfeiting and credit-card fraud aren't problems at HUD/IG, where work requires specific knowledge of the department's mission and clientele. Basically, the [former] Secret Service guys don't have a clue about what they are doing there."

Since publication of the HUD expose, INSIGHT has been deluged with complaints of similar activity at other federal OIGs. However, while nearly all of those making the complaints were willing to provide documents to support their claims, most would talk only on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal from their retired Secret Service bosses and/or concerns about protecting pending litigation. Among those who have stepped forward openly are two of the most highly regarded senior field managers at the HUD OIG, Malloy and Larry Chapman. They have filed equal-employment complaints claiming that they were subjected to humiliating investigations and forced to resign by two senior executive-level OIG officials in Washington, both of whom also are retired Secret Service agents.

In some cases, sources tell INSIGHT, those daring to challenge decisions made by former Secret Service personnel working in the OIGs have been reminded that the retired agents--including a number of those once assigned to the presidential-protection detail--retain powerful friendships from their prior jobs. "The other agents may hate their guts, but are scared to death" because of potential reprisals, Malloy tells INSIGHT. "If you mess with these folks," says Dann Truxal, another HUD OIG special agent in charge and a retired Army officer who left the department after having been passed over for a key position in favor of a Secret Service retiree he thought less qualified, "you'll have Internal Affairs after you."

Critics say that among the OIGs which allegedly have fallen under the networking Secret Service retirees are those at the departments of Justice and Labor, both internal-affairs offices at Treasury, the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Railroad Retirement Board. …