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May 09, 2005

Misuse of Government Credentials

Judge upholds demotion and 14-day supsension of supervisor for presenting credentials to police officer at a traffic stop. Although the supervisor never affirmatively requested a favor from the officer, the Judge agreed with the agency that mere self-identification by a law enforcement officer can result in favorable treatment by another law enforcement officer.

TAMIKO F. STROUD v. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

DOCKET NUMBERS CH-0752-05-0082-I-1, CH-0752-04-0614-I-1

2005 MSPB LEXIS 1812

March 28, 2005

INTRODUCTION

The appellant filed an appeal from an action effected on June 21, 2004 that suspended her for fourteen calendar days and demoted her from the position of Supervisory Special Agent, GS-14, to the position of Special Agent, GS-13 for failing to secure her government-issued firearm and misusing her government credentials. The Administrative Judge affirmed the agency's action suspending and demoting the appellant.

SUMMARY (Misuse of Government Credentials Charge)

The supporting specification alleges that on January 2, 2002, the appellant was a passenger in a car driven by Dexter Harrison. When the car was pulled over by the police, the appellant displayed her government credentials to the policeman even though she had not been requested her to identify herself.

Police Officer Mike Dempsey, Woodridge Police Department, stated in his investigatory interview that, upon stopping the vehicle in which the appellant was a passenger, the appellant "immediately identified herself as a federal agent" and "on her own initiative" displayed her credentials. He stated he had not requested her to identify herself. The appellant's statements differ from that of the police officer. Officer Dempsey stated he never requested identification from the appellant but that the appellant immediately identified herself as a federal agent.

In her written reply, the appellant appears to agree that she acted in an affirmative manner to identify herself as a federal agent. Even assuming it as necessary for the appellant to display her drivers license, it seems likely she could have done so without revealing her government employment.

The appellant correctly notes there was no evidence she affirmatively requested a favor from the officer. As stated by the Deciding Official, however, mere self-identification by a law enforcement officer can result in favorable treatment by another law enforcement officer. For this reason, a motive existed for the appellant to reveal her employment status. The Deciding Official testified that special agents such as the appellant are well aware they are not to use their government credentials for personal gain.

The Administrative Judge found that, more likely than not, the appellant improperly revealed her government credentials to the police officer. Because misuse of government credentials constitutes an infraction warranting disciplinary action to promote the efficiency of the service, the charge was sustained.

Regarding the penalty the deciding official testified he considered the "Douglas factors" in his consideration of the penalty to be issued. He noted the appellant had been employed for thirteen years with a record of average performance. The appellant had a past disciplinary record consisting of a thirty-day suspension based on her improper use of a government vehicle. The Deciding Official further testified that, as a supervisory law enforcement official, the appellant was held to a very high standard of conduct. See Luongo v. Department of Justice, 95 M.S.P.R. 643, 648 (2004). He stated the appellant was well aware she engaged in improper conduct and there were no mitigating factors lessening the seriousness of that conduct. He further stated he lost trust in the appellant's ability to perform the duties of her position and, for this reason, it was necessary to demote her from her supervisory position and suspend her.

The Administrative Judge found the agency appropriately considered all relevant factors in determining the penalty to be imposed and that its exercise of disciplinary discretion was well within reasonable limits. See Douglas v. Veterans Administration, 5 M.S.P.R. 280, 306 (1981).

Posted by Bert DiBella in MSPB | Permalink

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