Many active-duty and retired agents want to know why it took management three and a half months and after the Washington Examiner‘s report earlier this week to take the issue seriously enough to launch a probe. A complaint was initially filed Oct. 11 about senior agent Kerry O’Grady’s anti-Trump Facebook posts.
“The Secret Service’s morale has taken another hit this week,” said Gary Byrne, a former Uniformed Division officer, who wrote “Crisis of Character” about his first-hand experience protecting the Clintons. “Unfortunately, how they are handling O’Grady’s misconduct is exactly what I would expect.”
The premier group for retired agents, the Former Agents U.S. Secret Service, or UFAUSS, moved swiftly this week to expel O’Grady from the ranks of associate members – a move viewed as a strong rebuke to both O’Grady and the way the Secret Service has handled the issue.
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Ron Kessler, the author of several books about the Secret Service, including “The First Family Detail,” said O’Grady threatened to shirk her most basic of duties — to protect the president — and should be immediately fired.
“As with the military, it’s the job of the Secret Service agents to lay down their lives if necessary to perform their duties,” Kessler said. “Based on that alone, Agent O’Grady should be fired as of today.”
“Can you imagine if an FBI agent said she would not investigate Hillary [Clinton] because she likes her?” he asked.
Others within the Secret Service community, both active agents and officers, as well those who have retired, are expressing outrage in private law enforcement forums that the agency appears to have dragged its heels in punishing O’Grady until the story came out in the press.
“It’s killing morale to show once again that there’s two sets of rules – one for supervisors and people they like and one for rank-and-file and people they don’t like, despite what Joseph Clancy is saying,” a separate source in the the community told the Washington Examiner.
Clancy, the director of the Secret Service, was installed at the top of the agency after a string of security lapses came to light in 2014, including an incident in which a fence-jumper made it into the heart of the White House before being apprehended.
“They tried to bury the [O’Grady issue], and to protect themselves as they always do. Nothing has changed with the service,” the source said.
In a statement the Secret Service released earlier this week announcing the probe, the agency said it took “action” back in October after learning of O’Grady’s Facebook posts but did not launch a full-fledge investigation until three and a half months later.
Despite the calls for a swift firing over the Facebook post, the Secret Service is limited in how quickly it can move to punish an agent or officer. The agency must follow a careful legal process to impose any disciplinary action against O’Grady. Secret Service employees are unionized federal workers with multiple layers of job protections.
For instance, if the Secret Service proposes a disciplinary action, O’Grady would have due process rights that could take weeks or months to exhaust.
“Before the Secret Service pulled a trigger on any action, she would be entitled to notice of the charge against her and that right to reply to the charge…and she would have the right to appeal any adverse action, such as removal, to” an outside board, known as the Merit System Protection Board, Debra D’Agostino, an attorney and founding partner at the Federal Practice Group, told the Washington Examiner.
The MSPB is a quasi-judicial agency that exists to protect federal employees from management abuses.
The new morale complaints over the agency’s handling of the O’Grady case amid one of the toughest and busiest periods for the Secret Service
The agency has been stretched thin for nearly a year and a half, with the first visit of Pope Francis to the United States and the contentious presidential campaign’s unprecedented demands on the agency. All of those new requirements were layered on the agency’s primary mission of securing the White House and the first family, vice president and prior presidents and their families.
The crushing workload lead some of top agents and officers to reach their combined compensation limits of $160,300 as early as June, making them ineligible for overtime during the national political conventions and the general election, when their protective services are needed the most, according to a report in USA Today.
An earlier blue-ribbon outside panel, convened by the Department of Homeland Security in 2014 to evaluate the security breaches and cultural problems within the Secret Service, found that special agents and uniformed officers were working an “unsustainable number of hours.”
The agency responded by securing congressional funds to hire an additional 1,000 new agents, a hiring surge that continues.
That blue-ribbon DHS-appointed panel also found that employees were “starving for leadership” and recommended that President Obama hire a director from the outside who could help change the agency’s insular culture.
Obama, however, instead chose Clancy, who he came to know and trust while working on his protective detail.
After the O’Grady issue, Kessler predicts Trump will follow the panel’s advice by replacing Clancy with an outside director, such as a former FBI official. Doing so, he said, is necessary “to stop the laxness and cover-up culture and bring the agency back to one we can count on to protect the president, the vice president, and their family members and stop this kid of outrageous behavior.”
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner