• The Sad Intramural Horseplay of a Decadent Organization Eating Itself

    February 7, 2014 // 28 Comments »

    State Department employee Jeremy Yamin used official letterhead to write to Homeland Security about a visa for his maid.

    State said using its letterhead for this purpose was against its rules, and after a lengthy process, punished Yamin with a one-day suspension. Yamin challenged this through State’s internal process, and State was forced to rescind the one-day suspension.

    The process of defending himself cost Yamin over $71,000, and now he is suing in U.S. District Court for State to reimburse him, as, he contends, they are required to do. The process is headed into Year Two.

    CONCLUSION: The people at State are all clearly insane, and taxpayer money is being wasted on disciplinary processes that make no sense and do not stand up to scrutiny.

    The Facts

    According to court documents, Yamin was abroad and wrote four papers letters, on State Department printed letterhead stationery (remember that from grandpa’s office?), to the Department of Homeland Security regarding a work visa for his foreign maid. He wanted to bring the maid with him from overseas for his domestic assignment in Boston. That’s what happened, nothing more, nothing less. There were no accusations of fraud or any concerns on the part of State about the contents of the letters per se, only that they constituted “personal” use by Yamin of official stationery.

    COMMENT: For better or worse, many Foreign Service personnel bring domestic help from overseas back to the U.S. with them. This is a common thing. When hiring a domestic overseas, the U.S. embassy almost always is officially, directly in involved in the domestic’s visa processing with the host country. In many countries, an actual diplomatic note is formally issued by the embassy. Not withstanding any rules about stationery, it is not unreasonable to believe visa processing within the U.S. might fall within the broad realm of “official” correspondence, especially when the writer did not misrepresent himself i.e., “I am writing on behalf of the Government of the United States to inform you…” or his purpose.

    State nailed Yamin for his offensive use of stationery. Yamin fought back, employing a legal team, and won. State was forced to rescind the one-day suspension.

    In cases where State loses such grievances, the law allows for reimbursement of “reasonable attorney fees.” Yamin presented documents showing he paid out over $71,000 in such fees. For those of you lucky enough not to live in D.C., lawyers there charge $300 bucks an hour. State said they found only about $12,000 in fees “reasonable,” based on their own finding that Yamin’s lawyers held an “unnecessary” hearing, even though Yamin had a legal right to hold such a hearing. So, faced with over $59,000 in out-of-pocket costs, even though State was found wrong in punishing him as they did, Yamin is back in court suing State for the cash.

    Who Cares about the Taxpayer?

    At some level, who cares that State enthusiastically punishes lower level employees for minor infractions, while senior people’s actions end up under FBI investigation while they skate away unpunished. That’s just the sad intramural horseplay of a decadent organization eating itself.

    What we all should care about is the insane expenditure of taxpayer money in pursuing minor infractions, if they are in fact infractions, especially when State is clearly proven to have erred in its decision. Whatever Yamin did, compared to forced abortions, fake receipts and sex with subordinates in Naples, it was just not that big a deal. Even after Yamin’s lawyers pointed out State’s mistakes, the Department continued to fight to the bone not to admit them. When clearly found in the wrong, State doubled down to not pay legal costs and pushed the case into the courts. A government attorney will have to defend the case and, if State loses, the government will end up paying even more of our money out to Yamin’s attorneys.

    What it Means

    We have here an organization that has lost contact with the gravity that holds most of us to the earth. Minor things are conflated into big things, while big things are to the limits possible swept under the rug. Senior officials get away with much, lower officials get away with little. Taxpayer money is spent freely and irresponsibly to maintain such a system. Even when it realizes it is in the wrong, State doubles down to try and slam its own employees who dare challenge the great and powerful Oz. If an aggrieved employee does not hire a lawyer s/he is at the mercy of State. If a lawyer is hired, State will punish the grievant financially.

    BONUS: State makes no real effort to publish its grievances, and exerts much internal pressure on all parties to not bring the cases into daylight even when public courts are involved. Many thanks to Diplopundit for his/her efforts to keep these cases in front of the taxpayers.

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    Posted in Embassy/State