Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Secret Service Agrees to Pay $24 Million to Settle Decades-old Race-bias Case Brought by Black Agents
 Then-acting Director of the United States Secret Service Joseph Clancy (2nd right) arrives to brief Senate Judiciary Committee staff members in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill October 7, 2014. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

By Carol D. Leonnig January 17 at 10:44 PM

The Secret Service agreed Tuesday to pay $24 million to settle a two-decade-old case in which more than 100 black agents have alleged that the agency fostered a racist culture and routinely promoted white agents over more qualified African Americans, according to documents filed in court and interviews with representatives of both sides.

As part of the deal, which is the result of a push in the waning days of the Obama administration, the agency admits to no wrongdoing or institutional bias.

But the payments to the agents — including lump sums as high as $300,000 each to the original eight plaintiffs — are intended to remedy the sting of the discrimination the agents say they suffered and the job opportunities they lost, according to interviews with representatives from both sides.

Jennifer Klar, the lead attorney for the black agents, described her clients as thrilled with a result they hope will prevent future discrimination in the agency.

“At long last . . . black Secret Service agents will not be constrained by the glass ceiling that held back so many for so long,” Klar said.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose agency includes the Secret Service and who drove the talks, said the resolution was “simply the right thing to do.”

“I am pleased that we are able to finally put this chapter of Secret Service history behind us,” Johnson said in a statement. “Had the matter gone to trial, it would have required that we re-live things long past, just at a time when the Secret Service is on the mend.”

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy described the pending settlement in a conference call with former directors Tuesday afternoon and then sent an agency-wide message to the staff late Tuesday night.

“While the Secret Service takes all allegations in this case seriously, the organization has, and continues to be, committed to a fair and transparent promotion process,” said spokeswoman Catherine Milhoan. “It is time to move forward rather than look back to remnants of the past.”

The case centered on black agents who repeatedly bid for promotions from 1995 to 2005 and were turned down in favor of whites. Often the white agents chosen had less experience and lower performance ratings, according to the plaintiffs. Ray Moore, the lead plaintiff, had been a member of President Bill Clinton’s detail and had bid 200 times for promotion over the years without success. Moore had trained several of the white agents who leapfrogged him.

The suit was first filed when Clinton was president. But two presidents and four directors had passed the job of resolving the messy legal fight on to their successors.

Carol Leonnig covers federal agencies with a focus on government accountability.  Follow @CarolLeonnig

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