Secret Service shakes up staff, tightens alcohol rules

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WASHINGTON -- Secret Service director Julia Pierson has demoted the supervisor of one of the agency's largest divisions and reassigned nearly two dozen members of its staff, part of a broader cleanup effort in the wake of embarrassing drinking incidents on two recent presidential trips, according to three people familiar with the moves.

The agency also has ordered stricter rules on drinking for the division, known as special operations, forbidding them from drinking alcohol within 12 hours of reporting for duty and 24 hours before the president's arrival at any trip location.

Five employees of special operations were implicated in misconduct ahead of trips by President Barack Obama last month to the Netherlands and Miami. The division is central to the agency's efforts to ensure the safety of Mr. Obama and his family, and includes agents and officers trained for unique protective roles such as counter assault, emergency response and rooftop sniper teams.

A Secret Service spokesman confirmed the reassignment of multiple employees in the division but declined to provide details or elaborate on why they were moved. The spokesman also declined to discuss the removal of Dan Donahue as the special agent in charge of the division.

"Personnel are being reassigned as a result of staffing rotations and as a result of assessments made after two recent incidents of misconduct," agency spokesman Ed Donovan said. "Director Pierson maintains a zero-tolerance policy regarding incidents of misconduct and continues to evaluate the best human capital practices and policies for the workforce."

Mr. Donahue ordered the tougher drinking rules in the wake of news coverage of alcohol-fueled incidents involving his employees in the Florida Keys and the Netherlands last month, according to an official familiar with the change.

Starting Tuesday, Mike Rolin, former deputy supervisor overseeing the Secret Service's Washington field office, took over the special operations division, the official and another person briefed on the move said. Both men declined requests for comment or interviews through the Secret Service.

The beleaguered agency has been struggling for two years to recover from a high-profile drinking-and-prostitution scandal ahead of Mr. Obama's visit to Cartagena, Colombia, for a regional summit in April 2012. The latest incidents have brought fresh embarrassment to the service and harsh new questions for Ms. Pierson in Congress.

Wisconsin Sen. Ronald Johnson, ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs investigative subcommittee, said in an interview Tuesday that he remains concerned about the Secret Service's problems and whether the new rules will end them.

In the Netherlands, three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting Mr. Obama on a trip to a nuclear summit there March 24 were sent home after going out for a night of drinking the Saturday before. One agent had been found passed out Sunday morning in the hallway of his hotel, where Mr. Obama was scheduled to arrive the next day. All three were put on administrative leave based on supervisors' conclusion that they had violated agencywide rules that barred drinking within 10 hours of reporting for their shifts.

Ms. Pierson was about to celebrate her first year on the job as director and learned of the incident while traveling with Mr. Obama and other administration officials on Air Force One en route to Amsterdam.

Ms. Pierson had warned supervisors ahead of the overseas trip that she was already unhappy about another incident of misconduct in south Florida in early March, when two counter-sniper officers suspected of drinking had a car accident just before the first family's arrival in the area.


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