While attention has understandably been focused upon the presidential race, a bizarre tale of abusive behavior at Janet Napolitano???s Department of Homeland Security has been bubbling along in the background. On Tuesday, the heat was turned up, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chief of Staff Suzanne Barr voluntarily placed herself on leave, pending an internal investigation.
Barr figures prominently in a series of affidavits filed by ICE employees as part of a discrimination lawsuit brought by James T. Hayes Jr., head of the New York office. Among other things, Barr is accused of gazing at an employee???s crotch and asking, ???How long is it, anyway????
Another employee claims Barr offered to perform oral sex at a party, held in the home of a U.S. embassy official in Columbia. At the same party, Barr allegedly took a BlackBerry from a male staffer and sent text messages to Hayes??? female supervisor, stating that Hayes ???had a crush on her and fantasized about her.??? She has been accused of using ???sexually humiliating language??? when haranguing male employees, according to the New York Daily News, which describes male staffers as being ???treated like lapdogs.???
Hayes??? suit is directed at Homeland Security director Napolitano, who is accused of ???turning the department into a female-run ???frat house??? where male staffers were banished to the bathrooms and routinely humiliated,??? according to Forbes.
In addition to fostering ???caustic and ???sexually offensive??? workplaces for men,??? Napolitano and her top staffers are accused by Hayes of promoting less-qualified female employees over male staff. He specifically claims that Napolitano tapped New York City Department of Corrections supervisor Dora Schriro as special adviser on Detention and Removal Operations, even though she had ???no experience in managing a federal law enforcement department.??? Schriro had previously worked with Napolitano when she headed up Arizona???s Department of Corrections while Napolitano was serving as governor of the state.
Hayes himself once held the position of Director of ICE Detention and Removal Operations, but was demoted after Napolitano took over as DHS secretary, so his charges of special treatment for Schriro have been criticized as office-politics sour grapes.
The ???caustic workplace??? complaint might prove to be harder to dismiss, especially in the wake of Barr???s voluntary suspension. Hayes??? lawyer told Fox News, ???People are coming out of the woodwork on this because this is such a serious matter and people want to see this agency???s mess cleaned up.???
Department of Corrections spokesman Robin Campbell flatly denied Hayes??? allegations of preferential treatment for Dora Schriro, stating that ???Commissioner Schriro???s selection and service at DHS was based on the merits. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.??? The ICE and DHS administrations have generally refused to comment on the rest of the lawsuit, saying they prefer to address the matter in court.