Debra D’Agostino, founding partner of The Federal Practice Group, was interviewed by The Gazette on Senate checks and balances
Posted By smay || 1-Mar-2019
Anti-Trump Secret Service Agent Leaving With Pay, Pension
March 01, 2019
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
As an employee in her first few years at the GS15 paygrade, O’Grady likely made between $105,000 and $120,000 annually, before any overtime, according to federal pay scales. Although she was knocked down to a GS13, putting her in the $85,000 to $100,000 range, that pay scale likely only applied for the time since her settlement. That punishment also likely wouldn’t substantially impact the value of her pension, which is based on an employee’s three highest salary years at the agency. By the time she turns 70, it’s likely that the taxpayers will have paid O’Grady more in total salary after she declared publicly that she wouldn’t do her duty than in all the years before.
Additionally, O’Grady can start collecting a pension immediately after retiring if she hits the 25-year mark of her service. Her precise age is not known, but knowledgeable sources say she is in her upper 40s and nearing that 25-year anniversary with the agency. Certain federal law enforcement jobs, including the Secret Service, allow employees to start collecting retirement immediately if they leave the agency after 25 years or more.
Debra D’Agostino, a founding partner of the Federal Practice Group, which specializes in federal employment law, suggested that O’Grady may have had unrelated legal grievances with the Secret Service that allowed her to remain at the agency on paid or unpaid leave for roughly a year and a half after her October 2017 settlement.
Along with Grassley, several taxpayer watchdog groups have also taken issue with the questionable practices.
Among myriad management problems, the new report specifically criticized the Marshals Service for allowing employees with substantiated misconduct to remain on paid or unpaid leave long enough to reach retirement.
Congressional leaders have recently faulted DHS for the use of paid and unpaid leave to allow employees facing substantiated claims of misconduct to remain long enough to attain full retirement benefits.
Now, the official retirement notice informing all Secret Service employees that DHS is allowing O’Grady to quietly retire in three weeks is fueling further intra-agency resentment. It’s also raising questions about whether DHS is abiding by a new law designed to stop the once common practice of allowing problem federal employees to remain on paid or unpaid leave long enough to hit key retirement dates.
Sean Bigley, a partner at Bigley Ranish, a law firm specializing in federal employment cases and security-clearance denials, said Secret Service managers often impose unpaid leave and revoke security clearances in misconduct cases in order to force a person to quit rather than go through the lengthy appeals process to try to get their security clearance reinstated.
At first the agency took no action against her. A complaint had been filed with the agency shortly after O’Grady’s Facebook posts appeared, but Secret Service managers didn’t respond until a story broke in late January 2017, fueling a media firestorm and public backlash against her comments. The premier organization for retired Secret Service agents, the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service, also known as Old Star, quickly expelled her from its ranks.
The statement appeared to transgress on two levels. First, it pledged intentional dereliction of duty. Second, Secret Service employees are among those federal workers subject to enhanced Hatch Act restrictions, which bar executive branch staff (except for the president, vice president and some other senior executive officials) from engaging in certain political activities.
In the set of comments that got her into the most trouble, O’Grady posted in October 2016 that she was endorsing Hillary Clinton for president and would surrender her career and freedom rather than defend Trump from assassination.
Most fellow agents did not know the outcome of the investigation into O’Grady’s misconduct because there was a shroud of secrecy hanging over it. Several agents and other employees who tried to look up her employment status on an internal Secret Service database of active agents were hauled before higher-ups and warned not to discuss the case in any capacity, numerous sources in the Secret Service community have told RealClearPolitics.
A Secret Service spokesperson on Wednesday declined to comment on O’Grady’s retirement plans, saying only that the agency does not discuss personnel matters.
She contested the disciplinary measures taken against her and appears to have settled her case with the Department of Homeland Security in October 2017. Before that settlement, she was on paid administrative leave, and afterward remained on either paid or unpaid leave and is set to retire with a taxpayer-funded pension in roughly three weeks, according to sources close to the Secret Service and a public settlement decision between O’Grady and DHS.
As with Cohen, the agent’s life has been irrevocably changed by her public remarks about Trump. But Kerry O’Grady, the Secret Service agent in question, has emerged from the entire spectacle virtually unscathed financially despite the black mark on her law enforcement reputation.
Michael Cohen once famously said he’d take a bullet for Donald Trump — even though his position as Trump’s personal lawyer hardly required that type of life-on-the-line loyalty. As things turned out, Cohen didn’t really mean it, but by then his life and livelihood had been torn apart because of his extreme fealty to Trump, which earned him tens of millions of dollars but then backfired in spectacular fashion.