Speaker 1 (00:00)
Hi, this is Attorney John Mahoney. I'm the founding and managing partner of the top rated Federal employees law firm of John P. Mahoney, Attorneys at Law in Washington, DC. We're a law firm that specializes in representing federal government employees and employment and labor law matters, as well as security clearance appeals throughout the United States and around the world for nearly 30 years. Today, I'm going to talk about what to do if you're a federal employee and you've been notified that you're under investigation by your employing agency or some other agency of the federal government and how you should react to that.
Speaker 1 (00:39)
First and foremost, we do represent federal government employees in investigatory interviews and investigations throughout the United States and around the world. So if you need help with representation and with preparing for an investigatory interview by your agency or by Congress or by another federal agency, you can definitely reach out to us and schedule an initial consultation. Our number is 202-75-9780. The call center will schedule your initial consultation with me, and I will go over the rules of how to handle yourself in an investigatory interview and what to watch out for. Specifically, the first step is to identify whether the investigation is criminal or not, and we, when we represent you, will reach out to the investigatory agency that's investigating you to determine whether the investigation is potentially criminal or whether it's purely administrative in nature.
Speaker 1 (01:46)
If it's potentially criminal, then obviously the penalties you could face would be fines and imprisonment. If it's purely administrative, the penalties that you could face would be disciplinary in nature in terms of disciplinary actions, proposed removals or demotions or suspensions, or even being banned from federal employment. So it needs to be something that you take very seriously if you're notified that you're going to be placed under investigation or that you are required to answer questions by an investigator of your agency or another federal agency or Congress or law enforcement agency, et cetera, or security clearance investigation. If the matter is purely administrative, you should be told by the investigating agency or the investigator whether you are required to answer all the questions that you're asked or whether your participation in the investigation is purely voluntary. Normally, if you're told that the investigation is purely voluntary on your part, it's usually a good idea to politely decline participating in the investigation.
Speaker 1 (02:57)
If, on the other hand, the investigation is purely administrative and you're obligated to answer the questions that you're asked, you must do so truthfully and completely to the best of your knowledge, information, and belief. Under penalty of perjury, we always tell our clients that we can usually help you and save your career or defend your career, as long as you tell the truth about what you know what you believe with regard to the subject of the investigation. At the outset of the interview, you're most likely going to be told that you are obligated to answer all the questions that you're asked or whether your participation is purely voluntary. If you're obligated to answer the questions that you're asked, then you should find out what the nature of the investigation is. What are you investigating before?
Speaker 1 (03:47)
What is the issue that you're investigating? They should be willing to tell you what the nature of the investigation is. Once that's been explained to you, whether this is a criminal investigation, a purely administrative investigation, whether your participation is voluntary or mandatory, and what the basic nature of the accusations are, then you're ready to give your testimony. So what you should do in terms of how you support yourself is to be quiet and let the investigator ask you the questions they're going to ask you. Again, you have to answer all of the questions that you are asked truthfully and completely to the best of your knowledge, information and belief, under penalty or perjury.
Speaker 1 (04:29)
So you need to take it seriously. So you need to listen to the questions that you're asked. Make sure you've heard the question. If you didn't hear the question because you weren't paying attention or you were thinking about the last answer to the last question you were asked, ask the investigator to restate the question because you didn't hear it. If you heard the question but you don't understand it, you can ask the investigator to restate the question or rephrase the question because you didn't understand the question.
Speaker 1 (04:57)
Once you've heard and understood the question, then you need to think quietly with your mouth closed. What is the true and complete answer to this question? And only when you formulated in your mind with your mouth closed, your full and complete answers to the question that you're asked, should you then open your mouth and give the answer to the question that you asked? Once you've answered the question, stop talking. This is an investigatory interview.
Speaker 1 (05:24)
It is not a conversation. It is not a chitchat among friends. This investigator is not there to help you. The investigators, they have to ask you questions and obtain your answers to the questions. And so you should comport yourself as if you were a computer.
Speaker 1 (05:41)
What is this question? Did I hear it? Do I understand it? Is it really very broad? Tell me everything you know about what happened last week.
Speaker 1 (05:51)
On Tuesday, you can respond by saying, wow, that's really a broad question. Can you be more specific? If the investigator says no, then you need to answer the question the way it was phrased, within the scope of the way it was phrased. So what do I mean by answering the question within the scope of the question? What I mean by that is, for example, if I ask you, do you know what time it is?
Speaker 1 (06:17)
That's a yes or no question. The scope of that question is that it is a yes or no question. You either know what time it is or you don't know what time it is. I didn't ask you what time it is, so don't say yes. It's 12:00.
Speaker 1 (06:31)
I didn't ask you what time it was. I asked you, do you know what time it is? That's a yes or no question. Think quietly with your mouth closed. Do I know what time it is?
Speaker 1 (06:41)
If you do, then say yes and stop talking. If you don't, then say no. I don't know. Don't say yes. It's 12:00.
Speaker 1 (06:52)
Because I didn't ask you what time it was. I asked you, do you know what time it is? That's a yes or no question. Once you answer the question within the scope of the question truthfully and completely to the best of your knowledge, information and belief, that question is either yes or no or I don't know and stop talking. Let the investigator do their job by asking you the follow up question.
Speaker 1 (07:14)
Okay, if you know what time it is, what time is it? And say whatever time it is. 12:00 P.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Stop talking.
Speaker 1 (07:23)
You don't want to try to anticipate where the investigation is going or where the questions are going, and try to speed things up by volunteering information beyond the scope of the question you're asked because A, it'll inform the investigator that you're not very well prepared or trained to be a proper witness, and B you may be volunteering information that the agency doesn't want to hear or doesn't want to ask you. So don't try to be a Detective. Don't try to anticipate what the investigator is going to ask you next. Answer each question truthfully and completely to the best of your knowledge, information and belief within the scope of the question, and stop talking. Once you've answered all of the investigators'questions truthfully and completely the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth under penalty of perjury.
Speaker 1 (08:15)
Because any investigatory interview, no matter if it's your first level supervisor asking you questions or whether it's the FBI asking you questions, that is a matter of official interest. If you lack candor and your answers to the investigators'questions, you can be terminated from your federal employment for lack of candor. If you lie to the investigator and they find out that you lie to the investigator, you can be fired. Not only can you be terminated from federal employment, telling a falsehood, a false statement, material false statement and a matter of official interest, which is any questioning of you by your management chain, HR chain, investigating chain all the way up to the FBI in a criminal matter is a matter of official interest. So if you lie in response to a question that you're asked while you're getting paid by the United States government, then you've committed a felony.