Congressional Conduct Investigation
Federal Employment Attorneys in Washington D.C. Can Help Nationwide
The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC has the experience, resources, and insight to guide federal employees through the perilous and intimidating agency or congressional investigation process. Whether you are a congressional staff member, politician, or federal employee, we can help you proactively prepare for and effectively respond to federal investigations. From subpoenas to testimony in front of congressional committees, we are behind you at every step.
What Happens After a Congressional Inquiry?
An inquiry is assigned to a Congressional Correspondence Specialist once it has been opened and an identification number has been assigned. The Correspondence Specialist carefully reviews the information provided by constituents and determines which Action Office or Offices should be involved.
What Is a Congressional Conduct Investigation?
Congress has immense legislative powers and thorough control over how politicians and federal government employees behave professionally. Although there is nothing within the Constitution of the United States that explicitly gives Congress the ability to investigate potential wrongdoings, it possesses this ability all the same due to its inherent purpose. Therefore, when Congress decides to look into possible misconduct, it is known as a congressional conduct investigation.
Since a congressional conduct investigation can be an expensive and lengthy process, only serious allegations will actually be considered for review. However, anyone who has been handed a subpoena or been notified that an investigation is pending must react accordingly, as the investigation will most likely be conducted at that point.
Congress may begin a conduct investigation if it is notified that a politician, federal employee, or congressional staff member has:
- Committed misconduct: A member of a federal branch of government, whether they are a member of Congress or not, must follow an extensive amount of regulations whenever in any professional context. There are even guidelines for how to act when outside of work. An egregious violation of these rules could constitute a congressional conduct investigation.
- Sought sensitive information: Sometimes, simply requesting certain materials or information can be enough to trigger a congressional conduct investigation, especially if the documents requested are well above the individual's security clearance.
- Breached security protocols: Any word of potentially breached security will catch the attention of Congress members and other federal agencies. Violations of security protocols and codes of conduct could potentially jeopardize the wellbeing of the average American, depending on what the security breach entailed. Therefore, congressional conduct investigations of this nature will likely be the most tenacious and thorough.
- Misappropriated funds: Some Congress members and federal employees will have direct control over vast sums of money, either earned through lobbying or for use funding different approved projects. When finances go missing or seem to be used without the expected end result, it could warrant a congressional conduct investigation.
How Do Federal Investigations Work?
When an employee is under investigation, they will be notified that a federal investigator or their immediate supervisor needs to meet with them. Typically, this notification occurs the same day the employee falls under investigation or shortly thereafter.
Depending on what the employee is being investigated for, investigators can be from various organizations in the government. Supervisors, human resources employees, agency investigators, and agents for the Office of Inspector General (OIG) or Internal Affairs can all be investigators. In some cases, agencies even utilize contracted investigators to look into allegations of employee misconduct.
Once the employee meets with the investigator overseeing their case, one of three things often happens:
- The investigator presents the employee with questions about their case.
- The investigator asks the employee to sign a Garrity statement, a kind of voluntary agreement to be interviewed. This option is usually extended to unrepresented employees.
- The investigator asks the employee to sign a Kalkines warning, which forces the employee to acknowledge that they are being ordered to speak with investigators under penalty of disciplinary action.
Typically, Kalkines warnings are the best option for employees in this situation, since it offers more legal protections for the employee in question.
After the employee signs a Garrity statement, Kalkines warning, or agrees to speak with investigators, they may be asked to speak with investigators over one or a series of interviews.
At this stage or when they are first notified of the investigation, many federal employees should procure legal counsel. Without counsel, employees inadvertently trap themselves into signing statements without understanding the full ramifications of their actions, putting their careers in jeopardy.
A competent federal employment attorney can advise you throughout the investigation process, helping you prepare for interviews and understand your rights as a federal employee. As a result, it will be significantly easier for you to obtain a favorable outcome in your federal employee investigation.
What are the Consequences of a Mishandled Investigation?
When a congressional conduct investigation begins, the person targeted by it can take appropriate steps to try to clear the air and their name. They may even be asked to help with the investigation, and doing so can be seen as a sign of good faith. Failing to provide evidence to the contrary of the allegations or suspicions could be disastrous for the individual.
It is not uncommon for someone targeted by a congressional conduct investigation to lose their position as a politician or federal employee due to the findings. Beyond job loss, the individual's reputation will likely be severely damaged. This after-effect can make it nearly impossible to find similar employment in the future, even if the individual switches agencies or moves to a new state to pursue a political career. Thus, the best bet is usually tackling the accusations head-on rather than letting the system control the situation and decide the outcome.
As a former legislative branch federal employee, The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, knows what is at stake professionally and on a personal level. With congressional investigations, in particular, these proceedings can end up in headlines, potentially leading to a public relations disaster. The goal of our attorneys is to resolve your issue in a dignified and efficient manner while doing our best to preserve your professional standing and reputation. We are intimately familiar with the dynamics of congressional and agency investigations and can utilize our vast network of connections to advance your interests.
Guiding Federal Employees Through Congressional Investigations
Congress has been given a broad scope of powers regarding demanding information pertinent to legislative issues. They can demand attendance and testimony, records, documents, ask for witnesses, and have broad discretion regarding the scope of the investigation. As a federal employee under investigation, it is essential to consult an attorney who understands the challenges of such investigations and how to navigate the intricacies of various congressional committees. For effective advice and counsel, contact our team today.