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Fighting for Info on Sexual Misconduct by Federal Employees

Years before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, the United States Inspector General’s office released a report on allegations of sexual misconduct among agents and supervisors of federal agencies. NBC 7 Investigates has sought more information about the alleged incidents, but the Department of Justice Inspector General’s office refuses to release details about where these cases took place. In light of “Sunshine Week”, in which journalists across the world bring attention to open transparency within the government, we are sharing some details about our fight for records we feel the public has a right to see. “I think you would expect the law enforcement and agencies would comply with the law,” attorney Guylyn Cummins said, “I mean that’s their job, to enforce the law.” Cummins is referring to the Inspector General’s report, released in 2015. That report reviewed how federal agencies — including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), United States Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), handled specific sexual misconduct cases among federal agents and their supervisors. The Inspector General’s report cited specific cases in which agency supervisors did not report cases of abuse or sexual misconduct, choosing instead to keep details of the alleged misbehavior “in-house” and away from outside investigators. Examples include allegations of ATF instructors who had sex with students, DEA employees who paid for prostitutes, and a Deputy U-S Marshal who was romantically involved with the spouse of a fugitive. NBC 7 Investigates reviewed that report and highlighted key findings. To see the report, click here. One key piece of information not included in the report was where these agents and supervisors were working when these alleged offenses occurred. After the report was released, NBC 7 Investigates filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to determine if any of the agents had ties to San Diego. “The whole underlying purpose of the act is to make sure that public information is always available to the public,” Cummins said. NBC 7 Investigates has encountered repeated roadblocks since we filed that request in April 2015. The Inspector General’s office has repeatedly told us it’s working “diligently” to fulfill our FOIA request, but almost three years later, no records have been released. Attorney Cummins has filed several open government cases on behalf of journalists. Cummings reviewed our request for information and said she cannot see any reason for the agency to not answer our questions. Cummings also said delays like this are not uncommon. “Whether it’s a citizen being delayed in access to their own records that are kept in the hands of the federal government, or the news media trying to do a timely story on a very important topic like we have here, it just happens every day,” Cummins said. In the most recent response, the Inspector General’s office indicated it may have found records that are “responsive” to our request, meaning one or more of these cases may have a San Diego connection. But the Inspector General refused to release the records, so we can’t confirm a San Diego connection. Because the records originated from the other federal agencies that were investigated, the Inspector General said NBC 7 Investigates must request the records from those agencies, even though one of the report’s findings was the reluctance of these agencies to release the records in the first place. NBC 7 Investigates believes the public has a right to see these records and will continue pursuing that information.
Source: NBC San Diego

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