Background Investigations

Lack of Candor Results in Adverse Public Trust Determination

A supervisory human resource specialist at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was removed as a result of an adverse suitability determination after the completion of a public trust background investigation needed for his position. This individual was a supervisory human resources specialist with the Department of the Army (DA) prior to getting the job at DHS and resigned after being issued a proposed 14-day suspension for negligent performance of duties. Additionally, he was the subject of a workplace sexual harassment investigation. When he applied for the DHS job he filled out the Questionnaire for a Public Trust Positions (SF-85P) and answered “no” on Question # 12 which asks: Has any of the following happened to you in the last 7 years? 1 – Fired from a job. 2 – Quit a job after being told you’d be fired. 3 – Left a job by mutual agreement following allegations of misconduct. 4 – Left a job by mutual agreement following allegations of unsatisfactory performance.  5 – Left a job for other reasons under unfavorable circumstances.

A background investigator interviewed the applicant after obtaining additional information regarding his resignation from DA. During this interview, the applicant initially denied any issues while working at DA until being confronted with information about the proposed disciplinary action against him. He also initially denied the sexual harassment allegation. Subsequently, DHS issued a proposed notice of removal based on lack of candor during the background investigation process. The applicant appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the administrative judge there affirmed the DHS’s decision to remove him. The judge opined the applicant could not reasonably have believed the circumstances surrounding his resignation from DA were not unfavorable and intentionally withheld information. As noted in many previous board decisions, a lack of candor does not require intentionality or an intent to deceive. All that is needed is to show there was a failure to disclose something that, in the circumstances, should have been disclosed to make the statement accurate and complete. Read the entire case summary here.