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FEMA: Former official accused of years of sexual misconduct

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long recently issued a statement saying that FEMA's former chief component human capital officer (CHCO) had been the subject of an internal investigation before he resigned on June 18. That years-long investigation, Long said, revealed "lapses in professional responsibility" that he called "deeply disturbing."

A written summary of the investigation's findings provided to the New York Times alleged that the former CHCO had "engaged in serious misconduct and mismanagement" that had created a "'toxic workplace culture."

Due to the severity of the alleged misconduct and the man's position as CHCO, the investigation will continue despite the man's resignation.

The position of CHCO was created as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Although they are separate from HR directors, CHCOs have a highly influential role in workforce development and employee retention. CHCOs advise agency heads and officials on their agencies' responsibilities in selecting, developing, training and managing a high-quality, productive workforce in accordance with the merit system principles; implement civil service rules and regulations, along with OPM and presidential regulations; and create and manage the agency's workforce development strategies.

The fact that the man was CHCO at FEMA may help to explain any reticence on the part of employees who experienced the misconduct. According to the investigation summary, he also seems to have circumvented management structure in order "to concentrate unquestioned authority in himself" and to intimidate subordinates.

Investigators found evidence that the CHCO:

  • Had sexual intercourse with a subordinate whom he had reassigned to work directly with him. He allegedly pressured her for dates and denied her a promotion after she refused his advances.
  • Had an inappropriate relationship with a second female subordinate who was given a job for which she wasn't qualified and which was paid with disaster funding.
  • Gave a fraternity brother a job he was not qualified for.

FEMA administrator Long told the Times that, as a result of this investigation, he had established an Office of Professional Responsibility at the agency that will now handle allegations of employee misconduct. He has also ordered a third-party review of how FEMA handles misconduct complaints, along with employee counseling and mandatory anti-sexual harassment training.

"We -- as an agency -- have a lot of work to do," Long admitted in an email to employees, "especially with respect to sexual harassment in the workplace."

Whether you work for FEMA or another federal agency, you may have suffered or witnessed sexual harassment or misconduct. This behavior is not supposed to happen in the federal workforce, but it does. Before you file a formal complaint, build a convincing case and protect your rights by working with an attorney experienced in federal employment law.

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