The Equal Employment Opportunity director for Hill Air Force Base in Utah has been removed from her position for “improperly and unlawfully handling complaints involving sexual harassment and discrimination.”
Details of the director’s conduct were posted on the U.S. Office of Special Counsel website Tuesday.
An investigation by the Air Force Materiel Command Office of Inspector General substantiated the improper handling of the complaints by former director Lori K. Grimes, to include the following:
♦ Actively discouraged employees from filing EEO complaints, including telling one whistleblower that her (later substantiated) sexual harassment claims against her supervisor “wouldn’t carry weight” and “wouldn’t go anywhere” when the whistleblower tried to file a complaint.
♦ Illegally modified and rejected EEO complaints and allegations.
♦ Gave employees false and misleading information about the EEO process, including illegally denying a whistleblower the ability to remain anonymous at the informal stage of the EEO process and telling a filer that she was not entitled to file a claim when the filer was, in fact, entitled to do so.
♦ Failed to identify conflicts of interest by management during the EEO mediation process, including allowing a senior official accused of wrongdoing in a whistleblower’s EEO filing to serve as the sole settlement authority for the agency during that whistleblower’s EEO mediation.
Those included removing the director and reassigning her to another office that isn’t involved with EEO filings, improving annual EEO training, issuing new EEO policies regarding conflicts of interest, and further investigative action into the conduct of two attorneys, also not named, in the Hill AFB Civil Law Division who “failed to identify conflicts of interest during the EEO settlement process,” according to the statement.
“I commend the whistleblowers for bravely coming forward to identify the violations of law, gross mismanagement, and abuses of authority at Hill Air Force Base,” said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner.
The director’s removal came out of multiple reports of sexual harassment by “numerous female employees, including one of the whistleblowers by the former chief of Air Logistics Complex/Business Operations, that was reported to the office in 2017.
In a Dec. 22 letter to President Donald Trump and Congress, the Special Counsel’s Office said three whistleblowers came forward to provide information about the director’s improper and unlawful handling of the cases.
Names of the whistleblowers were redacted from the copy of the letter posted on the Special Counsel website.
The Air Force investigation was completed by December 2019, according to a report reference in the letter to the president.
But Special Counsel officials had problems with the report’s findings, that they didn’t go far enough to correct problems with the director and others.
Air Force officials at the Pentagon responded to concerns about the results of a report they submitted on Dec. 6, 2019, that its findings on the whistleblower complaint were that the director’s conduct was “merely negligent” and that it did not find evidence of “abuse of authority” or “gross mismanagement” of the Hill AFB EEO office.
The Air Force also initially did not recommend “any actions” to be taken or planned against the two lawyers assigned to the civil law division for “multiple errors and lack of candor in dealing with the case,” according to a letter the Air Force sent to the Special Counsel’s Office.
An Air Force official reviewed their own report and evidence in the case from March 23, 2020, to May 8, 2020, and determined the appropriate action was to reassign Grimes to an area with no influence over EEO complaints at Hill AFB.
Air Force Mobility Command’s director of manpower, personnel and services conducted an independent review of those actions in September 2020 and determined the action appropriate, according to the letter.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.