Federal Agency Misconduct Investigations
I am constantly asked by my clients on how to approach the compelled interview by their agency internal affairs (IA) investigators or OPR (office of professional responsibility) investigators that investigates misconduct allegations. Each agency and department use different names for their misconduct investigators but the most common is IA or OPR. Also pertinent are investigators with OIG (office of Inspector General) when allegations may be criminal as well as administrative. How one approaches these interviews is important whether it is a federal law enforcement Special Agent or a federal employee. The stakes are very high. Counsel should always be consulted prior to an interview, but that scenario many times does not occur.
I frequently encounter clients after the fact who have had “difficult” compelled interviews that exacerbate the discipline allegation to a more serious nature. The concerns of “word twisting” and “taking things out of context” routinely occur that can lead to additional charges of misconduct that may not have occurred. Many times it is a result of employees that are not prepared adequately for the interview or try too hard to “prove their case”. This should never happen. I have had clients who decided to handle the interview without the assistance of counsel and then retain counsel after receiving a proposal of significant for serious discipline including removal. I have defended several federal employees including federal law enforcement agents that have been proposed for removal that was directly related, not only to the underlying discipline allegations, but significantly influenced by the compelled interview. What may have resulted in a suspension proposal became a removal proposal. An effective interview can lead to a successful result in not a much more damaging proposition that will cost employment in legal fees to defend at the MSPB.
I counsel my clients to review the following guidelines in addition to a consultation.