A whistleblower filed a complaint alleging that former Department of Homeland Security official Kenneth Cuccinelli II engaged in mismanagement in relation to an agreement with a union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to a February 1 article from The New York Times.
The whistleblower, who wishes to remain anonymous, is accusing Cuccinelli of “gross mismanagement, gross waste of government funds and abuse of authority” — according to the Times, the alleged mismanagement is related to “labor agreements he signed with the immigration agents’ union the day before President Biden’s inauguration.” David Z. Seide, the whistleblower’s lawyer, believes that these agreements are “another example of the prior administration’s effort in its waning hours to cement a legacy at taxpayer expense.”
“This abuse of authority is shocking,” wrote Seide. Seide wrote that his client “possesses information concerning significant acts of misconduct” committed by Cuccinelli.
The six-page complaint was filed on February 1, 2021 with Congress, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, and the Office of Special Counsel. The complaint attaches three “memorandums of understanding” that Cuccinelli and ICE union president Chris Crane signed on January 19, 2020, according to the article.
The complaint brings attention to the agreements Cuccinelli signed regarding the handling of ICE labor agreements under the new administration. “One clause in the contract requires homeland security leaders to obtain ‘prior affirmative consent’ in writing from the union on changes to policies and functions affecting agents. It also appears to allow the ICE union to argue that it can reject changes such as Mr. Biden’s recent order to focus on violent criminals and not prioritize other undocumented immigrants,” the article states.
The agreements Cuccinelli signed also “suggest that the union could appeal any such rejection to the Federal Labor Relations Authority. And once the agreements take effect, they purport to ‘irrevocably’ block the government’s ability to challenge anything about the concessions to the ICE union for the next eight years.” This process seems to go against the current rulings that require the Secretary of Homeland Security “to notify the union in writing about any elements of the agreements that he may disapprove” — these elements would then “be sent back for further negotiations.”
The complaint also mentions aspects of the agreements like requiring the agency’s “express written approval prior to implementing changes in the conditions of employment” for ICE agents. Seide argues that rules like these are “effectively giving the union unprecedented veto authority in many areas” and “slow and impede agency activities.” According to the complaint, one of the agreements states that “prior administrative consent,” i.e. written consent from the union, is needed before implementing any kind of “modifications” relating to “the policies, hours, functions, alternate work schedules, resources, tools, compensation” for “afforded employees or contractors.” The agreements “also require the government to cover union-related travel expenses, granting it a benefit that Mr. Trump had banned in 2018,” according to the article.
In an email to The New York Times, Cuccinelli said the labor agreement with ICE “‘languished for many years, through several administrations’ and argued that the new deal he signed was in the best interest of the agency.”
“I absolutely deny any mismanagement, waste of government funds and any misuse of authority,” Cuccinelli wrote in the email. “The agreement is entirely legal and appropriate, or we wouldn’t have executed it.” Cuccinelli also “declined to respond to a question inquiring how the agreement would affect Mr. Biden’s directives to ICE.”
Crane did not respond to a request for comment. According to the article, the union “represents more than 7,500 agents and employees” and “endorsed Donald J. Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections.”