Grand Rapids, Michigan – September 29, 2008
On September 29, 2008 the Department of Justice issued its report on the removal of nine United States Attorneys. It concluded that Margaret M. Chiara, United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, had been dismissed because of performance related issues.
The conclusion does not follow from the facts disclosed by the investigation. Rather, the investigation details how an intentionally malicious campaign of false allegations, insidious rumors and trumped up allegations of favoritism was successful in the achievement of its goal: the undermining and ultimate destruction of Margaret Chiara as United States Attorney. The investigators clearly trace the spread of false and malicious rumors of a lesbian relationship and favoritism to Joan and Lloyd Meyer, two long-time assistants in Ms. Chiara’s office, who had long been frustrated in their own ambitions to be the United States Attorney, or a federal district judge. The only seemingly independent verification of the Meyers’ allegations of favoritism was that of Chuck Gross, a friend of both Meyers and close confidant of Joan Meyer, who was living in their Ada home while they were on detail to Washington, D.C. (and who didn’t feel constrained by that friendship from authoring and advocating for a strong performance evaluation of Joan Meyer.)
The Meyers’ allegations about Margaret Chiara to the investigators are shown by the investigation results to be false in every important detail. The investigation clearly finds no lesbian relationship and finds no basis for trumped up charges of favoritism. What then becomes the basis for the conclusion of poor performance is the inability of Ms. Chiara to reign in employees of the Department of Justice who were trying to destroy her. As the United States Attorney, Ms. Chiara had virtually no ability to discipline the assistants who reported to her and no ability to fire them. Such power lies only in Washington, D.C.
Despite Joan Meyer’s denial that she spread rumors about Ms. Chiara, the investigators found numerous emails from Meyer in whom she made allegations of lesbianism and favoritism. Fundamental fairness requires more than a mere admonishment that the Meyers’ conduct was “unprofessional”.
Recognizing her own lack of authority to deal with the malicious attacks being waged behind her back, Ms. Chiara repeatedly asked the Department of Justice for help. Several times she asked for the assistance of the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys. When she asked for an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility, the answer was “no”. Despite knowing of the problems in the Western District of Michigan, senior Department of Justice officials, including Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, not only left Ms. Chiara unprotected from the scurrilous attacks, but failed to even inform her of concerns that would have allowed her to address any legitimate complaint. At the same time that Ms. Chiara was confiding in Mr. Margolis and asking for his assistance, he was apparently undermining her and interceding to prevent exactly the full investigation that Ms. Chiara was seeking. Ms. Chiara elevated this issue all the way up to the Deputy Attorney General level, but was denied the assistance she requested by Deputy Attorney General McNulty, who subsequently left the Department of Justice and, followed by Joan Meyer, joined the law firm of Baker & McKenzie.
In one of the oddest criticisms, the investigation labels “weird” Ms. Chiara’s efforts to get to the bottom of false and malicious charges levied against First Assistant Phil Green after he was nominated for a United States Attorney position in Illinois. Mr. Green was seemingly another victim of a poison pen, rumor-mongering campaign by the same people who were trying to undermine Ms. Chiara. The Department of Justice not only rebuffed Ms. Chiara’s efforts to confirm the identity of the person behind the spread of false and divisive rumors, it labeled her in a derogatory manner for even suggesting that an effort be made to uncover and deal with the real problem in her office.
In 2004 the official Department of Justice evaluation of the office was overwhelmingly positive; no negatives were noted. The fact that the investigators were not inclined, despite Ms. Chiara’s specific request, to interview other managers or attorneys in her office or federal judges in the district, underscores the highly superficial nature of the investigation and the willingness of the investigators to leap to a politically expedient result. There is no more support for the conclusion of poor management than there was to support the false rumors of a lesbian relationship and hollow gripes of favoritism.
Reading the investigation report would have one believe that the office of the United States Attorney was characterized by petty adolescent behavior. While that may accurately describe some individuals, it clearly would do a disservice to the many dedicated attorneys and staff members who did exemplary work during Ms. Chiara’s tenure. By all objective measures, none of which were reported, the office improved dramatically during the years Ms. Chiara was the United States Attorney. She is proud of her accomplishments, but is deeply disappointed in the lack of leadership and support from the Department of Justice.