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State Department career in the balance after worker charged

The federal government puts a lot of stock in the notion of candor. Failing to be forthcoming when asked questions during an investigation could lead to disciplinary action. As we noted in a post two years back, a charge of "lack of candor" proved to be a career ender for an administrative officer at the Federal Aviation Administration.

The circumstances of that case, in which a worker's substance abuse was a factor, perhaps warranted some leniency. However, that is not how that Merit Systems Protection Board appeal played out.

The issue of candor or lack of it is apparently a factor in a case making headlines now. What is potentially at stake is not only a woman's long career with the State Department, but her freedom. She could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of federal criminal charges.

The woman has top-secret clearance and held State Department posts since 1999, including stints in China. She is accused of two felonies, obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI. She recently pleaded not guilty. She is due to appear again in federal court later this month.

The government alleges she had contacts with Chinese intelligence agents over a stretch of years. She and her family allegedly benefited from receiving tens of thousands of dollars and other material gifts. According to a Justice Department news release, the charges stem from her failing to disclose the foreign contacts.

Most cases involving lack of candor don't likely lead to this level of prosecution. But any such charge can be devastating for the worker involved. Several laws grant federal employees due process rights and to be sure they are exercised, workers facing disciplinary action should not hesitate to contact a skilled attorney.

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