U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton’s chief of staff resigned Saturday amid allegations of sexual harassment by three male ICE employees, according to multiple news reports.
Suzanne Barr served as an aide to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she was governor of Arizona and came to Washington to take the ICE position in 2009 at Napolitano’s request.
She wrote in a letter to Morton, viewed by the news organizations, that the charges were unfounded but she was leaving to avoid an ongoing distraction at the agency and harm to the agency’s reputation.
The complaints of alleged sexual misconduct are part of a lawsuit by one employee and listed in affidavits by two other employees.
Barr took administrative leave last month after the New York Post reported on the lawsuit by an ICE agent. James Hayes says in his lawsuit that he was pushed out of a senior management job in Washington in favor of a less-qualified woman, was relocated to New York and was retaliated against when he threatened to sue. He also accused Barr of creating a “frat-house atmosphere” designed to demean male employees.
In one complaint, Barr is accused of telling a male subordinate he was “sexy” and asking a personal question about his anatomy during an office party. In a separate complaint, she is accused of offering to perform a sex act with a male subordinate during a business trip in Bogota, Colombia. She’s also accused of calling a male subordinate from her hotel room and offering to perform a sex act. The names of two of Barr’s accusers were censored in affidavits reviewed by the Associated Press.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King of New York said his committee would continue to review the case and personnel practices at DHS, which he suggested had poor management practices and personnel policies.
– Eric Kulisch