Bickering and Infighting at the FBI

     KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – An FBI agent sued the Department of Justice, claiming superiors sabotaged his career with false accusations – including publishing false profiles of him and his wife on adult websites – as revenge for a complaint he made against a fellow agent.
     Sean E. Edwards sued Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department in Federal Court.
     Edwards claims the DPJ demoted him and discriminated against him because he is a man, to appease a female agent, whom he calls Agent X.
     Edwards says in the lawsuit that the problems began around October 2010, when his wife anonymously made a complaint against Agent X, claiming X was violating FBI rules by driving with her children in an FBI vehicle.
     Edwards claims Agent X immediately blamed him for the complaint.
     “Thereafter, she would regularly complain to her superior, the same ‘SSA’ (Supervisory Special Agent) as plaintiff’s and also up the local chain of command including the Special Agent In Charge of the Kansas City Office (‘SAC’) about plaintiff,” the complaint states. “She accused the plaintiff of inappropriate conduct directed at her. She attributed false, damaging and misleading conduct to him, made unfounded, false and unverifiable claims against plaintiff. She also claimed to be the victim of these allegations and acts which she attributed to the plaintiff; all to his further damage and detriment.
     “Agent ‘X’ succeeded in persuading her superiors that she was the actual victim of
     plaintiff’s alleged conduct when she falsely and frequently claimed that plaintiff was personally responsible for her OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility], that he had and was following her; that he had and was stalking her; that he refused to leave her alone and had displayed violent propensities while in her presence. She even claimed that acts that plaintiff took to advance his career were hostile conduct and part of plaintiff’s plan to harm her. She advised management of her fears which influenced plaintiff’s superior’s negative and adverse conduct towards him, while providing preferential treatment to Agent ‘X’.”
     (The phrase “that plaintiff was personally responsible for her OPR” apparently means: for the complaint to the OPR.)
     Edwards claims that Agent X was relentless with her unfounded complaints.
     “These false and unsubstantiated claims continued almost on a weekly basis; and each time a false allegation was made, SSA accused plaintiff of having committed the act,” the complaint states. “In each instance the allegations were factually unsupported and only based on ‘feelings.’ Yet, each time they were made, SSA seem to accept as truthful Agent ‘X’ claim asserted and always confronted and challenged the veracity of the plaintiff who always denied the false allegations of wrongdoing. During each episode, plaintiff would first deny the claim, then indicate that these were acts of harassment and insist that SSA or upper management investigation [sic] the basis of the claims against him. Each of these denials and request for investigation by plaintiff were separate protected acts and based on information and belief, were never acted on by the defendant. These accusations and the failure to investigate the same, as plaintiff had requested, discriminate against the plaintiff based on his gender when compared with hers and denied plaintiff the equal treatment that he had a right to expect.”
     Edwards says he applied for a promotion in January 2011, then was told the position was being reposted because he was the only applicant. He claims he was told not to resubmit his application.
     “The SSA made it clear that he preferred someone other than plaintiff for the positions [sic] and stated that ‘… the timing would not be good’ if plaintiff would be selected,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff agreed not to resubmit his application during the reposting so as not to further antagonize SSA or Agent ‘X’ and as an aide to having the issue behind him. The reposting of the position and the discouraging of plaintiff from submitting an application was done to specifically appease and serve the interests of Agent ‘X’ and to discriminate against the plaintiff based on his gender when compared with hers and denied plaintiff the equal treatment that he had a right to expect.” (Ellipsis in complaint.)
     Edwards claims the situation escalated in June 2010 after Agent X’s former husband discussed with FBI co-workers his concerns about Agent X’s new boyfriend, as the ex’s children would be in the boyfriend’s company.
     Edwards says his own wife was also friends with Agent X’s former husband.
     Unknown to Edwards, he says, his wife sent the former husband a text saying he had a right to be concerned about the boyfriend.
     Edwards says Agent X immediately demanded that he be transferred off the squad.
     “Based on information and belief, Agent ‘X’ retaliated against plaintiff and his wife by posting or causing the posting on adult website 3 false profiles of plaintiff and his wife,” the complaint states. “When plaintiff learned of these derisive profiles he reported them to the security officer of the FBI local office as well as his SSA and ASAC. Plaintiff also reported that he suspected that Agent ‘X’ was responsible for these postings on an adult website. SSA promptly notified Agent ‘X’ of plaintiff’s allegations and while she denied any knowledge of the same the false profile postings were taken down shortly thereafter. Whatever inquiry or investigation defendant performed was not disclosed to the plaintiff but to the best of plaintiff’s knowledge nothing came of the efforts of the defendant.”
     On June 30, 2011, Edwards claims, he was transferred and grounded as a pilot and leader of the aviation department in Kansas City. He claims the FBI used his wife’s text as the final basis for the demotion.
     Edwards claims the harassment continued after his transfer. He says his department was subjected to a surprise inspection, which it passed, in order to appease Agent X.
     “After being transferred to the downtown headquarters of the defendant, executive management and other personnel deliberately subjected plaintiff to retaliation and reprisal when they committed wrongful acts designed to undermined [sic] plaintiff’s career in addition to permitting false and demeaning rumors to be spread throughout the workplace. Management even authored and published several false and erroneous electronic communications (‘EC’) that attributed emotional issues to the plaintiff which claimed he was hostile and combative and implied that plaintiff may not be fit for duty as an FBI agent. They actively sought to oust plaintiff from his position with the FBI by submitting these false EC’s to other branches of the FBI. First, they sent a copy of a libelous EC to Employee Health Care Program Unit (‘HCPU’) where plaintiff’s fitness for duty would be evaluated and a permanent file would exist on plaintiff. Executive management’s schemed for HCPU to make a determination that plaintiff was not fit to be a Special Agent of the FBI and thereby justify the termination of plaintiff. In addition, these EC’s were also submitted to the Analysis and Investigation Unit (‘AIU’), the unit which investigates, among other things, traitors and spies. The referral to AIU had the ability of being a career ender but had the immediate effect of preventing plaintiff from having unsupervised access to the secure work area (‘SCIF’) where plaintiff had been reassigned to work at his new duty assignment. This caused plaintiff to be held in a lower esteem by his new coworkers. Of a more lasting consequence, the referral to AIU would in the future serve as a barrier to subsequent advancement in the FBI, and also taint employment opportunities in the law enforcement field when plaintiff was to leave the FBI.”
     Edwards claims he was ordered to undergo a routine counterintelligence polygraph exam at 2 p.m. on July 7, 2011. Three hours before the polygraph test, he says, he found out his mother was having emergency heart surgery in St. Louis. Despite asking for the test to be postponed or rescheduled so he could get to his mother, Edwards says he was forced to wait until 3:30 to take the test.
     When he returned to work on July 13, 2011, his SAC discussed the polygraph that Edwards had taken and passed, but it showed he was under a great deal of stress. Edwards said he told the SAC about his mother’s circumstances and that the delay of the test increased his stress. He claims the SAC told him that because of the stress, the FBI’s Health Services unit was asked to determine if Edwards was fit to carry a weapon.
     “On July 18, 2011, while reviewing his local personnel file, plaintiff found an electronic communication (‘EC’), a document referred to as serial #44, prepared by ASAC 3 and approved by the SAC, dated July 11, 2011 but containing information from both July 12 and July 13, 2011. (This verified that the SAC and ASAC 3 were plotting the Fit for Duty evaluation prior to the meeting of July 13, 2011),” the complaint states.
     “This document was a request to have plaintiff evaluated and determine if he were Fit for Duty. It was also filled with false and untrue assertions designed to damage plaintiff. Many of these allegations were attributed to the EAP counselor who had no legal authority to even disclose any of the information attributed to her. When the EAP counselor was asked about the allegations, she vociferously denied staying what was attributed to her and also claimed that they were ‘made up’ by ASAC 3. Upon finding this false and misleading EC in his local personnel file, plaintiff made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a complete copy of his personnel file.”
     EAP is not defined in the lawsuit.
     Edwards claims the Justice Department deliberately misled him about why he wasn’t allowed access to the secure work area. He claims he was told that his access problem was due to a paperwork issue, though it actually stemmed from the open investigation caused by the false document known as serial #44.
     He claims that a second Fit for Duty evaluation request containing the same false allegations as serial #44 was submitted on Sept. 27, 2011.
     “Even though plaintiff successfully passed the polygraph examination, by denying him access to the SCIF defendant intentionally brought plaintiff’s plight to the attention of all of his new coworkers in his new unit, many of whom, based on information and belief, were told of the Agent ‘X’ rumors as to why plaintiff was no longer a pilot with the offsite unit, why he had been transferred and why he did not have a security clearance to enter the SCIF,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff was also not assigned any work responsibilities and had to create work for himself so that his periodic evaluation would at least meet expected levels of performance. In October, 2011, HCPU determined plaintiff did not require a Fit for Duty evaluation, and in November, 2011 plaintiff was finally cleared by AIU to have access to the SCIF without supervision, a full 4 months after having been pretextually transferred to his new duty assignment.”
     Edwards seeks actual and punitive damages for discrimination and retaliation.
     He is represented by Benny J. Harding of Leawood, Kan.

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