Good O' Boy Roundup Report - March, 1996

VI. OIG Recommendations

The Roundup was plainly not the type of event that brings credit to its participants. Particularly in the latter years, it developed into an event marked by repeated incidents of racial hostility, gross indecency, and extreme drunkenness. Although we recognize that not all attendees participated in or encouraged the racist or other disgraceful conduct evident at various Roundups, the extent to which this conduct had become part of the fabric of the Roundup reflects poorly on all who attended with knowledge of its nature. Our investigation determined that in many cases, DOJ employees acted as one would hope they would -- they saw an event marred by excessive alcohol consumption and inappropriate behavior and never returned. We believe it is unfortunate that all DOJ employees who became aware of the drunken and puerile nature of the Roundup did not make that same decision.

Although we do not believe that the Roundup, particularly in the form it took in more recent years, deserves approval of any kind, we also conclude that specific disciplinary action is not warranted for the vast majority of DOJ employees who attended the Roundup. Except for the two employees discussed below, the evidence did not support a conclusion that the DOJ participants either explicitly or implicitly countenanced racist conduct. It is a closer question whether some DOJ attendees approved the drunkenness and other juvenile behavior that we have described. Because it is harder to draw the requisite nexus between encouraging such drunken and juvenile conduct and an adverse impact on the Department of Justice sufficient to warrant discipline, we find that discipline is not supportable. The respective component heads, however, may wish to consider whether, based on the information provided, any of its employees' conduct at the Roundup suggests that counseling would be appropriate and beneficial.

We did find, however, one former and one current DOJ employee who not only demonstrated extremely poor judgment by repeated attendance at the Roundup with full knowledge of its inappropriateness, but also made either an inappropriate race-related comment or withheld information regarding racist conduct he observed. For the current employee we are recommending that disciplinary action be considered. Although based on the information gleaned in this investigation it would appear that a written or oral reprimand is warranted for this employee, we have inadequate information regarding the employee's history to make a final recommendation on the appropriate level of discipline. His component must assess his past conduct to determine whether his behavior at the Roundup is part of a pattern of documented racial insensitivity that would warrant a greater level of punishment. The final decision on punishment should consider all available information on this employee. As the second person is no longer employed by the Department of Justice, the Department no longer has any authority to impose discipline. However, we will refer the information developed on this person to the Department of Treasury, by whom he is now employed.

This investigation involved a murky and difficult area -- the responsibilities of federal employees generally, and federal law enforcement personnel in particular, to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their law enforcement responsibilities even when they are off-duty. Many DOJ employees believe that what they do off-duty is their business and not a proper concern of their employer. It is important to recognize, however, that even off-duty conduct can bring discredit upon the employee, the employee's colleagues, and the Department of Justice.

The existing standards of conduct regulate off-duty conduct when it could impair the effectiveness of DOJ employees or bring discredit on their employing agency. Such regulation is wholly appropriate. Being a federal law enforcement officer within the Department of Justice is a privilege not a right; it can appropriately be conditioned on maintaining a proper level of behavior at all times.

Our investigation revealed, however, that such off-duty responsibilities are generally not well-understood by many DOJ employees. This lack of understanding is in part the result of the very general provisions that govern off-duty conduct. It also appears to stem from a lack of adequate direction to supervisors and employees regarding the application of these provisions. Accordingly, we recommend that the Department of Justice do the following:

1) Explicitly advise its law enforcement personnel that off-duty conduct is subject to regulation and review and that sanctions can be imposed for off-duty misconduct;

2) Examine the existing standards of conduct that apply to the off-duty behavior of DOJ law enforcement components, and provide further guidance regarding the standards for what constitutes conduct that brings the Department or one of its agencies into disrepute;

3) Educate and train its law enforcement officers concerning how participation in events that may be racist can interfere with their ability to effectively do their jobs, such as opening lines of attack and impeachment on grounds of racial or gender prejudice when law enforcement officers serve as witnesses in criminal cases; and

4) Provide further training on the role of federal law enforcement officers in our society and the reasons why it is critical for law enforcement personnel to be held to extremely exacting standards of conduct to earn and maintain the full confidence of all citizens.

DOJ employees must become more sensitive to the importance of exercising judgment in their off-duty as well as on-the-job conduct and, as a result, take greater care in their selection of off-duty activities. We further hope that employees will recognize that even conduct that does not rise to a level warranting discipline can bring discredit upon themselves and the Department of Justice. Finally, it is important that employees recognize that they should not turn a blind eye to the misconduct of others but rather recognize that they have a responsibility to take reasonable action to stop such activity where possible.