My daughter was terminated by the FBI because they claimed, after 2 offers of employment, flying her to the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, and onboarding her as a new employee, that it was all a mistake. This is the story of my daughter’s unbelievable and heartbreaking FBI journey, filled with disappointment and emotional pain. This is actually the story of a career derailed by the Federal Bureau of Incompetence. Why am I telling this tale, rather than my daughter? She cannot tell her own story because documents she signed at the Academy prevent her from telling it. However, I lived it right alongside her and I have signed nothing.
The latest in the Bureau’s series of incompetence
On March 2, 2017, my daughter received an email from the FBI stating, “You have passed Phase III of the Intelligence Analyst Selection Process as well as the background process.” That email was followed by a formal offer letter on March 8, 2017, which stated, “You have passed the IASP, Phase III! You have been selected to fill the position of Intelligence Analyst (IA) with the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation…”. Phase III, by the way, is the final phase of the application process. It includes a review of all qualification standards and suitability, extensive interviews with friends, family and colleagues – both past and present , and basic background and criminal checks.
The final offer letter, issued April 14, 2017 – 37 days later, provided instruction to report to the FBI Academy for training on May 14, 2017. The letter also provided a list of things she needed to bring and some required her to make purchases, which she did. The FBI arranged her air travel.
On Monday, May 15, 2017, her latest FBI-induced nightmare began. A letter, sent first class mail, was received at my home in Arizona from the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since she was at the Academy in Virginia, I was collecting her mail and I opened the letter. It unbelievably stated:
“…A review and evaluation of your preliminary processing information and/or results of your background investigation, revealed the following suitability concern: Personal Conduct and Miscellaneous Issues. Therefore, a determination was made that you do not meet the suitability standards for FBI employment…”
Preliminary Processing? Did they mean the same processing that she was told she passed on March 2nd? She was now an employee! Not only did she not get this letter when it was issued on May 1st, the FBI apparently sat on it, and subsequently mailed it snail mail on May 10th, where it arrived at my home on May 15th after she was already onboarded and had begun training at the Academy.
Does this seem like an agency that has its act together? What adds to this incompetency is that the Security and Suitability Adjudication Unit Chief, Heather N. Armstrong issued this letter and apparently failed to notify the Training Division at the Academy. Huh? Remember no offer is to be made until this unit signs off on the candidate. So how was the offer made? What changed from March 2nd through May 1st? Most importantly, why was the Training Division not notified on May1st, so they could have stopped her travel to the Academy? What would have happened if she had not shown the class counselor her copy of the letter? Graduate, become an Intelligent Analyst, and after six months be told it was it a mistake?
All this happened while Comey was the Director!
Believe it or not this story is not unique. The FBI has a history of poor treatment when it comes to employment candidates. We know of another Special Agent trainee that suffered from the FBI’s incompetence. This candidate was hurt during training, then sent home to work in a local field office until she was well enough to resume training, except she had to start Academy training from the beginning. Not wanting to complete the 20 weeks of training a 2nd time and unhappy with the atmosphere at the Bureau, she resigned. The Special Agent in Charge at her field office convinced her to stay, and that she had a future with the FBI. Subsequently, she was summoned to a review board in Washington where they cited some minor conduct issues and then terminated her for cause – a big negative for a job seeker.
How it all began
Let’s go back to the beginning so you can see the breadth of the Bureau’s incompetence. My daughter was not a suitability concern when she was first employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in June of 2015. Since then it has been a long, seemingly never-ending series of incompetent screw-ups by the FBI. Perhaps you’ll just dismiss what I say as the angry rantings of a protective father. But perhaps you will read this story to the end and realize that it represents something far greater than one ex-employee’s trip through the gauntlet of the FBI’s administrative arm during the Comey regime.
Round one with the FBI started in June 2015. Having applied for the position of Special Agent and passing three phases of employment processing including an extensive background and suitability check, she entered the FBI Academy as a New Agent trainee. In August 2015, after a few months of training and while in good standing, she realized that she was more the Intelligence Analyst type than the Special Agent type. She decided to resign from the Special Agent program and tried to get transferred into the Intelligence Analyst program. She was led to believe that this shift would not be hard. The personnel at the Academy sent her file to FBI Headquarters, including her supervisor’s recommendation for continued employment with the Bureau, and seemed to think my daughter might be back at the Academy for the September intelligence analyst class. After all, she was hired as a Special Agent, had passed all the Bureau’s testing, and already held the requisite high-level security clearance.
What seemed like an easy switch became a morass of administrative bungling. The FBI treated a simple resignation, accompanied by a supervisor’s recommendation for continued employment, as if it was a dismissal for cause. One of the many insipid comments made to my daughter by FBI personnel, as she continually stressed that she resigned and was not dismissed, was: “Well you dismissed yourself.” They failed to provide her with an SF-50, Notice of Personnel Action, despite repeated requests. She was told over and over that she didn’t have one. An SF-50 is required for every change in personnel status, including initial hire. The SF-50 is the key document needed to apply for all federal jobs. After being told that she could not transfer into the Intelligence Analyst program and that she had to apply as if she were a new applicant to the FBI, she decided to look for employment outside the FBI. During this period between August and November, she communicated with a host of FBI Human Resource types who seemed to all have the common trait of not returning phone calls or emails. This would never fly in the private sector. I guess in government they have no performance reviews to pass in order to keep their jobs. In desperation, she filed a formal complaint to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to get a simple document that should have been quickly forthcoming.
Finally, in November 2015, after months of being in limbo, without an SF-50, a job, or any source of income, the Bureau offered her a job in a field office about 2 hours away from our home. The offer was well beneath her level in experience and skill set. She has an MBA and over 15 years’ experience as a manager. In addition, the salary precluded her from moving and being able to live reasonably once relocated. She declined the position and the Bureau put through her resignation.
She filed for unemployment and was accused by the FBI of not being truthful in her unemployment application. They hired her as a Special Agent and she was given high-level clearance. I’m pretty sure this would not have happened if she had a history of being untruthful. Due to her perseverance and detailed documentation of her communications with the FBI, she was able to beat the FBI’s appeal and receive unemployment benefits.
Here we go again, or round two with the FBI
This entire Intelligence Analyst application process is made up of three phases, with the last phase being a background and suitability check. Having applied for the position in October of 2016, tested in March of 2016, and interviewed in May of 2016, she had completed Phases I and II and part of III. In June 2016, she received a conditional job offer from the FBI for the position of Intelligence Analyst. She passed a drug test, another polygraph exam, and gave her fingerprints – a second time! Then her background investigation began. While working on her background investigation, a former Special Agent doing the east coast part of her background check asked her if she had the contact information of the Supervisory Special Agent who had been her supervisor while at the Academy. It seems that the agent had retired and they couldn’t reach her. Think about this: The FBI could not find a former Special Agent who retired and receives an FBI pension.
Back to the present
On Saturday, May 13, 2017, my daughter flew from our home in Arizona to Washington Reagan National Airport on a ticket booked and paid for by the FBI. The next day, May 14, 2017, she was transported by an FBI arranged shuttle to the FBI Academy located on the Quantico Marine Base. She checked in with a member of the On-boarding New Employees Unit (ONEU), turned in her payroll and other required forms, attended a brief orientation, and picked up the uniforms she would be wearing during her time at the Academy.
May 15, 2017 – While attending the first day of the Onboarding New Employees (ONE) seminar, that infamous letter dated May 1st, postmarked May 10th, arrived in the mail at my home in Arizona. At about 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, I forwarded a scanned copy of the letter and the envelope it came in to my daughter, via email. She immediately contacted her supervisor and informed him of the letter, then forwarded a copy of the letter and envelope to him via email. He told her to continue with the ONE seminar, like normal, and that he would investigate the matter in the morning and get back in touch with her.
May 16, 2017 – She attended Day 2 of the ONE Seminar. She did not hear anything until approximately 3:30 p.m., at which point she was pulled aside by her supervisor and an FBI security officer. They told her that the letter was correct and that it “was a mistake that she was at the Academy.” In shock, she inquired about the email which informed her she had passed the background phase and the job offer letters (March 8 and April 14) she had received. She was told that all of that “was a mistake.”
She was then brought to the Academy’s administrative building where she was detained for about two hours, which were probably the longest two hours of her life. Again and again she was told by the security officer detaining her that she was hired by mistake. That the FBI never intended to hire her and that she was going to be terminated.
Do they not have a system in place wherein new applicants are accepted and notified properly? When she asked what the reason for her termination was, she was told that it was because she should not have been hired in the first place. She was to receive an SF-50 showing a termination for cause. They apparently have no “OOPS!” termination code. Maybe they should make an oops code since the Bureau make so many mistakes and this has likely happened to others. Administrative incompetence at the Federal Bureau of Incompetence helmed by James “I do as I please” Comey.
Or no answers whatsoever!
A termination for cause diminishes my daughter’s future job seeking opportunities and income possibilities. To make matters worse, in order to find out what was the nature of the Personal Conduct and Miscellaneous Issues – which were the reason behind a last minute, out of nowhere determination of unsuitability, she needed to make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. With current FBI backlogs, per the FBI, it could take up to two years for the FBI to comply with the FOIA and provide the information requested, for compliance. Two years to pull a personnel file. And again, FBI incompetence at its finest.
My daughter told me that the security officer was a real gem throughout (I hope you can hear the dripping sarcasm in that sentence). She told me that he actually chastised her for being disrespectful from the time she had been compulsorily detained in the administrative building. He implied that she should be grateful because he waited until a scheduled 15-minute break in the seminar to pull her out rather than pulling her out of the seminar in the middle of a lecture. She says she was stupefied, and told me she thought to herself, “Was this guy kidding?” She said she had nothing but the opposite of gratitude for that uncaring “character” (I am avoiding using other descriptions, that might come to mind). Did he think that he was just going to tell her that she was there by mistake, fire her, throw her out of the Academy, send her home, and that she would just be totally calm and say, “Okay, thank you”? I didn’t know that, in addition to being incompetent, the people at the Bureau were delusional.
She wasn’t allowed to return to her room to pack up her belongings. The Intelligence Analyst training program lasts for 3 months, thus she had quite a few belongings. FBI personnel packed her things for her. When she departed the administration building around 5:30 p.m., she was escorted by three FBI Police Officers, yes three. Was she a criminal? My daughter is 5’4” and less than 150 lbs. One person could not handle her escort? Her belongings and she were dropped off at the West Gate of the Academy. She was given only a few minutes to sort through her things, three months’ worth of baggage, to make sure everything was there before she was further transported off the Quantico Marine Base.
Since there were no flights out of DC back to Arizona that evening, the FBI booked her on a flight leaving from Washington Reagan National Airport the next day, at 5:30 a.m. She was given her flight itinerary and then was literally dumped at the curb in front of a hotel just outside the Marine Base, along with all her luggage. She was told she needed to pay for her own hotel, and when she inquired as to how she would get to the airport – located fifty miles away! – the next day for her flight, she was flippantly told that it was up to her and that she should take a taxi. Here is a good question about the dump off at the curb by the FBI. Did they even know if the hotel had a vacancy?
She should take a taxi to the airport…over an hour and a half away…the next morning…for her 5:30 a.m. flight? What cabs are running at 3:00 a.m. to travel fifty miles in order to get her to the airport an hour before a 5:30 a.m. departure? She was also told that someone from FBI Headquarters would follow-up with her. She was standing in front of a Comfort Inn, feeling absolutely no comfort at all.
Upon learning that my daughter was dumped on the curb with three months of luggage in the early evening, I got moving and scrambled to get her to the airport and to find her lodging. I used Expedia and booked her a hotel room near Reagan National airport. I also arranged for a taxi to come pick her up and drive her to the Embassy Suites Reagan National airport hotel. By this point, I could tell that she was absolutely exhausted. She hadn’t eaten since 11:00 a.m. By the time she got to the hotel around 8:00 p.m., she had been angry, distraught, and in tears for hours. According to her, she was physically, mentally, and emotionally spent.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at the butt crack of dawn, she took a short taxi ride from the hotel – it was too early for the hotel airport shuttle – and checked-in for her flight. She told me that she was still so visibly distraught, she got a hug from a female TSA officer. How upset do you have to seem in order to rate a TSA hug?!
Where does that leave her?
On May 25, 2017, she received an email with a letter attached. The letter was dated May 22, 2017. Apparently, the FBI can’t even get an electronic letter sent without delay. The letter informed her that her “employment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation is terminated for failure to meet the suitability standards.”
She immediately responded to this email that, in no uncertain terms, a termination for cause was unacceptable and unwarranted. She has since communicated with one of the few seemingly competent employees at the Bureau, who changed her SF-50 to indicate a voluntary resignation rather than a termination for cause. However, because she “resigned” she is unable to recoup travel expenditures – approximately $1,500 – for her travel and related expenses to and from the Academy. Unfortunately, the separation code options are limited. It seems they have no separation code for an oops! There is no code for “We made a terrible, incompetent mistake and treated the individual like a sub-human species” separation.
This is essentially a coerced resignation, based upon the alternative. Accept termination for cause and maybe collect money due or resign and forfeit all money due. She has chosen a resignation path because of the importance of having an unimpeded job search, but has not given up on recouping the money denied her due to this coerced resignation.
She filed another complaint to the Office of the Inspector General. This time the complaint claims that the FBI is guilty of misconduct and whistleblower retaliation, since all signs point to this being retaliation for the complaint she filed in December 2015. As incompetent as the Bureau is, it is highly unlikely that it actually made that many mistakes when it came to my daughter. No, someone finally connected with her name and decided that she needed to go.
She submitted a complaint to the FBI’s Ombudsman asking for reimbursement of her expenses. Unsurprisingly, she has had no response.
She has filed her Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and has studied up on the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) where, if negligence is involved, she can seek compensatory damages. Needless to say, I’ve put my research skills to good use in order to assist her. She has contacted several attorneys with experience in federal tort cases and claims. One attorney told her, in no uncertain terms, that expecting any help from the Ombudsman is futile. He is still laughing…glad she made his day. He thinks the Federal Tort Claims Act is worthless as well. Instead, he is certain that the best course of action is to file a complaint with the United States Merit Systems Protection Board.
At this writing, the complaint has successfully been submitted. The initial consultation fee and retainer for this attorney are $400 and $5,000, respectively, funded by me. But this is no longer about money, this is about what is right and just. Someone needs to acknowledge just how administratively incompetent the FBI has become under the former leadership of James Comey and Loretta Lynch.
I sincerely hope that her complaint to the Merit Systems Protection Board bears fruit because right now it seems that the FBI has successfully performed a crude sexual act on my daughter, which no one – least of all her – deserves. Does anyone have a need for an unemployed MBA who was formerly the Director of Finance and Administration at a major university’s school of law, before she tried to enter public service?
June 21, 2017 update
My daughter’s attorney has advised that apparently the FBI is insulated by law in this matter. Yes, they can basically do what they wish as it pertains to probationary employees and to applicants, with no legal repercussion. Why would the Congress carve the FBI out of any remedy needed by a wronged citizen?