Plagiarism, Finances, and Credibility Sink Clearance Eligibility
I ran across a recent Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Hearings and Appeals case that made me scratch my head and ask “What the heck was she thinking?’ This one involved a DOE contractor who was completing a master’s degree program related to her job that was paid for by the DOE. The local security office was given information (unknown by whom) about emails she had sent to her husband which indicated he was helping her complete assignments for her courses and then turning them in on her behalf. In addition, it was noted she had previously failed two classes, was cited twice for plagiarism, and still owed DOE reimbursement for the failed courses. During a 2015 security interview, she denied the plagiarism and cheating, claiming her husband was only a professional resource and that she was the one who completed the coursework. Blowing her credibility out of the water were the emails she had sent from her government computer detailing instructions to him regarding how and when to get the assignments done.
On top of all that, it appears they were living beyond their means and got into hot water when the husband became unemployed. You would think, based on their situation, they would have cut out all unnecessary spending, right? Nope! They got behind on the house mortgage, deferred payment on a car loan to buy Christmas gifts, tapped into his 401k in the amount of $75,000, and ran up credit cards. The husband bought new clothes, she got jewelry, and they went on a $1,300 cruise. Her long list of excuses for the expenditures included his PTSD and needing to feel good about himself, their marital difficulties after a long separation, the need for money to buy family Christmas gifts, and advice she received from a psychic (otherwise referred to as a wellness advisor) whom she had paid $3,000-$4,000 over the course of two years.
Needless to say, the appeals judge in this case was unmoved by her appeal. In summary, under the personal conduct adjudicative guidelines, no mitigation could be applied due to the lack of credibility in her claims regarding her master’s program coursework, her dishonesty during the security interview, and continued deflection in accepting responsibility for her actions. Under financial considerations, even though she is now current on her debts, her irresponsible behavior and lack of credibility cast doubt on her judgement and reliability. End result? Clearance reinstatement denied!
You know, any one of the issues listed by itself (with proper honesty during the interview) would probably have been easy to mitigate. But the combination of these things really blows her credibility.
I found myself believing her story and actually holding some sympathy for her up until I got to the emails she sent her husband. Those emails were the most important factor in this determination (aside from the fact that the emails are what likely kicked off the investigation as a whole).
She unfortunately made their tough situation worse.