Former ATF chief told staff to help nephew with homework
Thursday, October 12, 2006
WASHINGTON -- The man who recently departed as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ordered his staff to help with his nephew's high school homework, wasting the agency's time and violating ethics rules, an inquiry found Wednesday.
The nephew's project -- a documentary about the ATF that took 10 months to complete -- was one of a half-dozen examples of lapses in judgment Carl J. Truscott committed before he resigned in August, says the report by Justice Department inspector general Glenn A. Fine.
The report found that only the high school project demonstrated mismanagement by Truscott, whose employees accused him of wasting federal funds, taking costly trips and creating a hostile work environment.
Still, investigators described themselves as troubled by Truscott's leadership, hiring practices and financial decisions, including his plan to spend $100,000 on gym equipment for the ATF's new headquarters.
The most damning conclusions were saved for the homework episode.
"Significant ATF resources were used to assist Truscott's nephew on a high school project," the report found. "By directing and authorizing the use of ATF resources in his nephew's high school class project, we believe that Truscott violated several ethical regulations."
An estimated 20 ATF employees were pulled in to help with the documentary, spending dozens of hours on research, pulling film footage from the agency's library and setting up interviews with Truscott and other officials in Washington and Philadelphia.
The nephew received an 'A' on the project, the report noted.
Moreover, the report found, Truscott "failed to fully accept responsibility for the project by minimizing the extent of ATF resources that were committed to it" and tried to justify his staff's help as a form of community outreach.
Truscott could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But in a Sept. 25 letter to Fine, responding to a draft copy of the report, Truscott acknowledged that he should have placed appropriate limits on the resources that could be used in support of the project."
In his letter, Truscott also lashed back at the critical report, which he called negative in tone and based on allegations from anonymous sources who second-guessed his judgment.
Fine opened the investigation after he and Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch received an anonymous letter dated Jan. 20, 2006.
It contended that Truscott had horribly mismanaged federal dollars in a variety of ways, including demanding a larger security detail than needed, making unnecessary upgrades to the new ATF headquarters building project, and taking expensive trips to London, New York City, Boston, and Ottawa on the agency's bill. The letter also complained that Truscott created a hostile work environment by directing two staffers to serve lunch to him and his guests.
Fine's investigation substantiated the charges and chided Truscott for poor judgment, but it added, "We did not find that these financial decisions constituted misconduct."
A person close to the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wednesday the allegations may have been made by Truscott's top deputies, who were facing reassignment as part of an agency reorganization.
E-mails dated Jan. 15 -- five days before the anonymous letter was sent to Fine -- show Truscott telling ATF Deputy Director Edgar Domenech the changes would come "as early as this week."
Fine received another anonymous letter Sept. 22 from a group that described itself as concerned ATF employees. The group argued that three ATF assistant directors also were mismanaging agency funds by commuting to work in government-owned cars, promoting relatives and arranging weeklong conferences for employees at resorts like the Hard Rock Casino in Los Vegas.
It was not immediately clear whether Fine's office was investigating the newest allegations.
On the Net:
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives: http://www.atf.gov/
Justice Department's Office of Inspector General: http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/index.html