Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Rising Supervisor Leading Effort to Probe Secret Service Scandal

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Rising Supervisor Leading Effort to Probe Secret Service Scandal

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Paula Reid, the new Secret Service boss for the South American region, was in Cartagena, Colombia, preparing for the president's visit when she received an urgent report: A prostitute, upset because she said she had not been paid by a Secret Service agent, had created a disturbance in a nearby hotel, knocking on doors and yelling in the hallways at daybreak.

With roughly 24 hours left until President Barack Obama was due to arrive in town, she instructed her staff to swoop into the Hotel Caribe midday on April 12 and inspect hotel registration records for all Secret Service employees. The Miami-based Reid, who had been staying at a nearby hotel, swiftly rounded up 11 agents and officers and ordered them out of the country. She alerted her superiors that she found early evidence of "egregious" misconduct involving prostitutes, and set in motion the public uncovering of the most wide-reaching scandal at the agency in decades, according to government officials involved in the case.

It fell to Ms. Reid, 46, to ride herd on a rowdy group of male colleagues, including two who were assigned to supervise the group, the morning after a drunken bender, according to the officials. While the sordid and salacious details of the men taking prostitutes to their rooms is now well-documented, less is known about the role played by one of the agency's highest-ranking African-American women in making the clock-ticking decision to replace them on an assignment for which there is no room for error.

For Ms. Reid, the moment was not without risk, opening her to a potential internal backlash for ruining the men's careers and, once the news became public, embarrassing an agency that prides itself on maintaining a stoic public face. Officials familiar with the probe said Ms. Reid had the director's endorsement in the swift steps she took to handle the matter, but some agents said another senior manager might have been less aggressive.

Those who know Ms. Reid said the move revealed a steely resolve that has marked her 21-year rise through the ranks of an agency whose macho reputation has again come under scrutiny. Her story offers a counterbalance to critics who contend the Secret Service has been slow to clean up its act from the "Mad Men"-era days when some agents joked their off-duty mantra was "wheels up, rings off."

Not that Ms. Reid, an intensely private person, would admit it. In an interview, she offered few new details of her role, sticking to what colleagues described as her businesslike approach.

"I am confident that as an agency we'll determine exactly what happened and take appropriate action," she said, in an interview with her and an agency spokesman. "Despite this current challenge facing the Secret Service, my job is to keep Miami personnel focused on our core protective and investigative missions. …

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