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DOJ official engaged in anti-Gay bias - Report confirms Goodling targeted rumored Lesbian, violated federal laws
DOJ official engaged in anti-Gay bias - Report confirms Goodling targeted rumored Lesbian, violated federal laws
by Lou Chibbaro Jr. - Courtesy of the Washington Blade

A former Justice Department official violated federal non-discrimination laws by denying a job extension for a department attorney and by attempting to block her from obtaining two other department positions because she believed the attorney was a Lesbian, according to findings of an internal investigation.

The investigation found that Monica Goodling, senior counsel to former Attorney General Alberto Gonazles and the department's liaison to the White House, told subordinates in 2006 that she denied extending an appointment of former Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Hagen of Michigan to a post at the Justice Department in Washington because she disapproved of Hagen's sexual orientation.

"We concluded that Goodling's actions violated department policy and federal law, and constituted misconduct," states a report released Monday by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility, which jointly conducted the investigation.

The findings involving Goodling's conduct toward Hagen were part of a broader, year-long probe into the 2006 firings of eight U.S. Attorneys under Gonzales' tenure that were said to be based on political considerations.

Goodling resigned from the Justice Department in April 2007 amid allegations that she and others at the department helped orchestrate the U.S. Attorney firings and used political and ideological considerations in hiring and firing dozens of career employees at DOJ.

Federal civil service laws prohibit political and ideological factors from being considered in personnel decisions related to career federal employees.

A 1999 graduate of Regent University Law School, which was founded by televangelist Pat Roberson, Goodling was among a cadre of young religious conservatives who joined the Bush administration in 2001.

In its discussion on the department's handling of Hagen, the report states that investigators also found that Goodling told a number of subordinates that she believed Hagen was having a "homosexual relationship" with a female supervisor and that the two "took trips together at government expense."

Some of the subordinates interviewed in the investigation said Goodling told them Hagen was having a "sexual relationship" with the supervisor, the report states.

The report does not identify Hagen by name, only as "the assistant U.S. Attorney." It also withholds the name of the person with whom Goodling said Hagen was having the sexual relationship, referring to that person as "the U.S. Attorney" for whom Hagen formerly worked.

However, Hagen's identity and the identity of the "U.S. Attorney" were widely disclosed in the media in April when National Public Radio broke the story that the Inspector General's Office was investigating Goodling for allegedly seeking to have Hagen banned from future jobs at the Justice Department because of Hagen's sexual orientation.

Official biographical information on Hagen released by the Justice Department states that Hagen worked for then-U.S. Attorney Margaret Chiara of Michigan, who was among the eight U.S. attorneys fired in 2006.

"The Assistant U.S. Attorney [Hagen] told us that the rumors were false and that she was not involved in a sexual relationship with her U.S. Attorney," the joint Inspector General-Office of Professional Responsibility report states. "Similarly, the U.S. Attorney denied that she and the AUSA were involved in a sexual relationship."

Beginning in 2002, Hagen worked under Chiara as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, where she prosecuted cases on Indian reservations. In October 2005, she was recruited for a job in Washington that involved serving as liaison between the Justice Department and a special U.S. Attorney's committee on Native American criminal justice issues.

The Washington job was considered a "detailed" rather than a permanent position and was based in the DOJ's Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.

According to the Inspector General-Office of Professional Responsibility report, Dan Villegas, Hagen's supervisor, offered her an extension for her detailed post in the summer of 2006, saying colleagues and associates familiar with the Native American liaison office praised her for doing an excellent job.

The report says Villegas told investigators that he received word that Goodling rejected his proposal to extend Hagen's detail assignment based on a "political decision" rather than on her job performance.

"In fact, [Hagen's] 2006 performance appraisal, which covered her detail at Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, rated her performance as 'outstanding' on all performance elements, the highest possible appraisal," the report states.

Other Justice Department officials reported that Goodling made it known that she wanted Hagen terminated from her post and didn't want her to be considered for any other Justice Department job, the report says.

"Several witnesses told us that Goodling's opposition to the extension of the detail was based at least in part on [Hagen's] alleged sexual orientation," the report states.

It says that John Nowacki, deputy director for the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, told investigators he met with Goodling about Hagen's employment at the DOJ and left the meeting "with the sense that her personal views on homosexuality probably played a role in Goodling's decision not to extend [Hagen's] detail."

The report says Goodling later attempted to block Hagen from consideration for at least two other DOJ positions. But at least one other DOJ official - Assistant Attorney General Regina Schofield - rejected Goodling's overtures and decided to hire Hagen to a detailed position with the department's Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART).

"On February 1, 2007, [Hagen] was detailed to the SMART Office, despite Goodling's request that the AUSA not be given the detail," the report says. "Schofield said [Hagen] was doing a good job at the SMART Office, and would renew her SMART detail."

Hagen, who still works at the Justice Department, has declined to respond to press inquires, saying she "just wants to focus on her work," according to the April report by National Public Radio.

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