Tuesday :: Mar 20, 2007

US Attorney Purgegate - Margaret Chiara


by eriposte

Among the documents released by the DOJ last night and posted on the website of the House Judiciary Committee are a number of letters pertaining to one of the US Attorneys (USAs) who was fired - Margaret Chiara from the Western District of Michigan. Her case is interesting because the DOJ told this story that she was fired for "management" reasons - and yet, the Deputy Attorney General was more than willing to support her for another position within the DOJ. Her case is important for other reasons as well but let me just show you part of the story through the following extracts. (Note that all emphasis in quoted portions is mine.)

Here are the DOJ's talking points on Chiara that they (and the DOJ's William Moschella in particular) planned to use (page 20 of this PDF file):

TRY TO AVOID SINCE NO PUBLIC STATEMENTS FROM CHIARA

  • We have briefed privately the reasons for the change in this district; however, Ms. Chiara has not made any public statements at this time, and out of respect for her silence, we'd say only that this office presented some management issues.

IF PUSHED

  • Under the USA's tenure the office has become fractured, morale has fallen and the USA has lost the confidence of several members of the leadership team and some career prosecutors.
  • The problems here have required an on-site visit by management experts from our EOUSA to visit and mediate with members of the leadership team, and in the end, it was decided that new leadership would be appropriate to unite the office.

Of course, Chiara did not really have a clue that this is what they were planning to say about her. For example, on February 1, 2007, she wrote to Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Paul McNulty and Michael Elston in the Office of the DAG (page 21 of this PDF file):

...FYI: Everyone who knows about my required resignation, ( primarily our USA colleagues and people who are providing references ), is astonished that I am being asked to leave. Now that it has been widely reported that departing USAs have either failed to meet performance expectations or that they acted independently rather than follow DOJ/EOUSA directives, the situation is so much worse. You know that I am in neither category. This makes me so sad. Why have I been asked to resign? The real reason, especially if true, would be a lot easier to live with.

On February 9, 2007, Chiara wrote again to McNulty about an Assistant Director (AD) for Criminal Programs position at the NAC - National Advocacy Center (page 42 of this PDF file):

Paul: [...] The announcement (below) is for a detail at the NAC for which I am completely qualified and which I would enjoy doing. Obviously I am not currently eligible for a detail position. Will you please intervene to make the position available for me? It will provide a timely and satisfactory solution to my current job search. Thank you.

Margaret

Experienced Prosecutor Needed to Serve as an Assistant Director, Office of Legal Education, EOUSA, Columbia, South Carolina

[...text of announcement...]

McNulty forwarded Chiara's email to Michael Elston on the same day (same page) and asked:

Could we make this happen? Hire her into an EOUSA slot and then send her down to the NAC?

Elston in turn forwarded McNulty's email to Monica Goodling with the following comment:

This idea may help us avoid linking this to the others. What do you think?

It sure would, wouldn't it!

Less than a week later on February 14, 2007, Elston wrote again to Goodling (page 6 of this PDF file):

DAG favors hiring her as an AD at the NAC.

Let's just say that it is rather interesting that they were willing to retain Chiara in a senior position within the DOJ after privately planning to trash her using the talking point "Under the USA's tenure the office has become fractured, morale has fallen and the USA has lost the confidence of several members of the leadership team and some career prosecutors". This only reveals that the talking point cannot really be believed.

Indeed, Chiara was clearly surprised at how she was being made to look in public. She wrote to McNulty and Elston on March 4, 2007 (page 26 of this PDF file):

Paul: I respectfully request that you reconsider the rationale of poor performance as the basis for my dismissal. It is in our mutual interest to retract this erroneous explanation while there is still time. Please simply state that a presidentially appointed position is not an entitlement. No other explanation is needed.

As you know, I have assiduously avoided public comment by pursuing an informal version of the "witness protection program" in order to elude reporters! However, the legal community in Grand Rapids and organizations throughout Michigan are outraged that I am being labeled a "poor performer." Politics may not be a pleasant reason but the truth is compelling. Know that I am considered a personification of ethics and productivity...

On March 6, 2007, Chiara wrote again to McNulty and Elston (page 25 of this PDF file):

Today’s Congressional events make clear that I am, indeed, among the “USA-8”. Shortly after his opening statement, but before citing the perceived deficiencies of my former colleagues, Will Moschella stated that the two United States Attorneys not present were dismissed because of management problems. Apparently Kevin Ryan (whom I do not know) and I share the same reason for termination.

Michael Elston told me on more than one occasion, that the rationale for dismissal was on a continuum of sorts and that I am on the de minimus end after Dan Bogden. It is abundantly clear that this regrettable situation could have been better managed if the reasons for the dismissals were initially communicated to the affected United States Attorneys.

So, I now need to know what is the management problem to which Mr. Moschella referred?

Margaret

Incidentally, the Washington Post notes that the DOJ is trying to find a new slot for USA Dan Bogden:

Under fierce pressure from a Senate Republican [John Ensign from Nevada], Justice Department officials are considering a new position for Daniel Bogden, the ousted U.S. attorney from Nevada who, agency officials explained to Congress, was dismissed in an effort to get "new energy" into the job.

In other words, Chiara was told she was really being let go for rather de minimus reasons and was kinda behind Dan Bogden. Yet, they trashed her reputation in public and claimed that "Under the USA's tenure the office has become fractured, morale has fallen and the USA has lost the confidence of several members of the leadership team and some career prosecutors". I'd certainly like to know what Ms. Chiara thinks of this.

eriposte :: 6:37 AM :: Comments (16) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!