The U.S. State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a report that followed an investigation into a whistleblower’s complaints about the behavior of former U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo. OIG’s investigation found that both Secretary Pompeo and his wife requested that a political appointee “and other employees in the Office of the Secretary undertake work of a personal nature.” OIG provided three recommendations to the State Department, with which the State Department concurred.
The report states that a whistleblower contacted OIG in 2019 and alleged that Pompeo “was misusing U.S. Department of State (Department) resources by, among other things, requesting employees to conduct tasks of a personal nature.” The whistleblower claimed “the Department hired an employee as a Senior Advisor who was assigned to assist the Secretary and his spouse…in matters of a personal nature.” The whistleblower also alleged that other State Department employees working in the Office of the Secretary and Bureau of Diplomatic Security were assigned similar work by both the Secretary and his wife, according to the report.
After the whistleblower notified OIG, the Office “conducted preliminary work” and determined that an employee, whose title was Senior Advisor and hired in May 2018, carried out activities within her official duties but “also received many additional assignments that were communicated through (on behalf of the Secretary) or directed by Mrs. Pompeo, who was not a Department employee.” The Senior Advisor was also a longtime personal friend of the Pompeos. OIG found that Mrs. Pompeo would email the Senior Advisor “on an almost daily basis” after the Senior Advisor began working for the Secretary.
According to the OIG report, the tasks that Mrs. Pompeo asked the Senior Advisor to complete included “adding events to Mrs. Pompeo’s personal electronic calendar,” some events being of a purely personal nature like “meals with friends.” Other tasks Mrs. Pompeo asked of the Senior Advisor included “requests to pick up personal items, planning of events unrelated to the Department’s mission, and miscellaneous personal requests.” Additionally, OIG found that the Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo also asked “several other” State Department employees to complete personal tasks. Some of the requests asked of the Senior Advisor included purchasing copies of a Politico magazine issue in which the Secretary was featured, a t-shirt for a friend’s daughter, and “hostess gifts for social visits using Department funds.”
Some assignments Mrs. Pompeo asked the Senior Advisor to complete were more related to State Department business; however, OIG states that “[t]he Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch…limit the personal use of Department resources.” Overall, “OIG found evidence of over 100 requests to Department employees that are inconsistent with the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch or raised questions about the proper use of Department resources.”
“OIG also identified an incident that raised questions regarding the potential solicitation of a gift in violation of the Standards of Ethical Conduct,” the report states. This situation revolved around a member of the Pompeo family potentially receiving a price reduction for a hotel room through State Department staff connections.
In order to investigate the whistleblower’s allegations, the OIG conducted fieldwork that was finished in August 2020. The agency requested to interview Secretary Pompeo in September 2020 and followed up with that request multiple times. The agency conducted an interview with him on December 23, 2020, and the report states: “The delay in obtaining an interview with the Secretary delayed completion of the review and this report.”
The OIG report outlines various situations in which the Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo seemed to use State Department employees and resources for personal matters. It also includes responses from Secretary Pompeo taken from the December interview. In the conclusion, OIG states that the tasks the Secretary and Mrs. Pompeo requested the Senior Advisor and other employees to complete were “of a personal nature with no official connection to Department business, during both their duty and non-duty hours.” According to the report, “Secretary Pompeo acknowledged that he did not compensate Department employees for these tasks. Such requests are inconsistent with the Standards of Ethical Conduct and related Department policies.” However, OIG found “that the Pompeos did not generally make such personal requests” to Bureau of Diplomatic Security agents who were “assigned to protect them.”
OIG made three suggestions to the State Department “in order to mitigate the risk of future senior leaders committing similar violations.” Below are the recommendations:
- “The Office of the Legal Adviser should amend its existing ethics and travel guide to include written guidance as to whether it is appropriate to use Department funds for personal gifts to U.S. citizens and whether it is appropriate for Department employees to arrange personal dinners and entertainment for the Secretary of State.
- The Bureau of Diplomatic Security should amend its Protection Handbook to include examples of appropriate and inappropriate requests to agents performing protective functions and direction concerning what to do and who to contact when the agent is tasked with a request that may be inappropriate.
- The Under Secretary for Management should draft and publish guidance on the use of a subordinate’s time for tasks of a personal nature, including examples of appropriate vs. inappropriate requests and direction concerning what to do and who to contact when a Department employee is tasked with a request that may be inappropriate.”
OIG stated that the State Department concurred with each recommendation in a March 31, 2021 response. OIG also stated that these recommendations can be closed once “the Department provides documentation” that the recommendations have been taken into account and published/included in the Handbook.
Read OIG’s full report here.