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DOJ Inspector General Raises Red Flags About ATF Hiring Practices

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz sent a memo to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Wednesday raising concerns about how agents are recruited and hired. More specifically, how a lack of proper procedure could lead to unqualified individuals working at the agency or special favors for friends and family members, a violation of ethics rules. 


"ATF encourages its employees to act as informal recruiters to ensure a qualified and diverse applicant pool. The OIG has learned that it is common for ATF employees performing their recruiting duties to recruit from among family and friends. Recruitment from among family and friends is not in and of itself improper. ATF has mechanisms to ensure that individuals without a personal connection to an ATF employee can still apply to and be hired at ATF," the OIG released in a memo to ATF. 

"Even if the ultimate hiring decision is free of nepotism, recruitment of friends and family can, in some circumstances, potentially give rise to issues under the federal merit-based hiring laws or the Standards of Ethical Conduct. For example, an ATF official’s statement endorsing or recommending the candidacy of a family member he or she is recruiting could potentially constitute improper advocacy of the relative’s appointment in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(7), even if the official is not the ultimate decision maker or otherwise participates in the relative’s hiring," the memo continues. "Similarly, recruiting and recommending friends or family members for employment could, in some circumstances, conceivably create an appearance that the employee is using his or her public office for his or her friend’s or relative’s private gain or giving that friend or relative preferential treatment, in possible violation of the Standards of Ethical Conduct."


The OIG is recommending ATF review current hiring policy and ensure they are written to promote "merit-based hiring principles and ethics regulations" for the future. 

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