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Monday, November 26, 2007

Local U.S. Attorney's Office; Where do we go from here?

While I am not completely comfortable with the hang-the-mutineers-from-the-yardarm approach of the Wall Street Journal’s recent editorial, I don't think that Rachel Paulose’s decision to leave the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office should end the inquiry into what happened there.

In a highly public uprising last April, three of Paulose’s then-deputies and an administrator stepped down from their leadership roles. (All four opted to stay in that office rather than leave, creating a management situation for Paulose that was awkward to say the least.) The move – which came at the height of the furor over the national U.S. Attorneys scandal – appears to have been calculated to dislodge Paulose from her post. Predictably, the self-demotions led to a firestorm of round-the-clock negative media coverage focused on Paulose. However, Paulose was left standing after media attempts to tie her actions into the national scandal failed.

There are, of course, exceptional circumstances that would justify a mutiny like the one staged by these deputies. So far, I have not seen anything like that on the public record – just allegations Paulose wasn’t a good manager. I think it is something that definitely needs to be explored now – particularly if, as Senators Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar recommend, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey is to choose an internal candidate as Paulose’s successor. (At least one of those deputies has been named as a possible candidate in the local press.) As a corollary, such an inquiry should also consider how these each of these individuals acted after they stepped down and went back to nonmangement roles.

The other thing that concerns me deeply is that a person or persons in the office leaked highly sensitive personnel information over the Internet, including selected details of a retaliation and a discrimination complaint. This leaking was done in a manner to stoke the negative media coverage and to compromise Paulose’s ability to effectively carry out her job. The divulging of this personnel-related information was not only clearly in violation of Department of Justice policy, but also threatened the integrity of the investigative process for those complaints. I think people working in a public office have to follow the rules – if we learned anything from the Gonzales era it should be that.

I urge the new AG not to rush to pick an internal candidate as U.S. attorney without first sorting out his or her role in the recent events in the office. I think the vast majority of those in the office kept their heads down and went about their business despite the intrusive controversies. A few people in the office appear to have become disruptive forces who made it their business to stir those controversies up. If our new U.S. attorney is indeed to be drawn from the internal ranks, I, for one, would like to make sure that he or she is drawn from the former group.


Anonymous said...

Give the job to Mike Hatch!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that be great! They deserve each other.
Rachel Paulose did not fire the trouble makers in that office and that is the only complaint I have regarding her management style. It looks like there is no justice in the Department Of Justice.