Picking up takeout, taking care of the family dog, making Cheesecake Factory reservations, helping write a medical school recommendation for a friend and sending out Christmas cards are just some of the personal, non-work related tasks former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo, asked State Department employees to do for them while he was in office.
A State Department independent watchdog investigation, published on Friday, found that Pompeo and his wife misused agency resources and violated federal ethics rules by making more than 100 such requests to political appointees and other employees at the State Department.
Susan Pompeo made many of the unethical requests cited in the investigation. She assigned employees numerous tasks, and the employees told the investigators that they considered these instructions from her to be “at the direction of Secretary Pompeo” and she would often use language such as, “The Secretary would like you to… ” and “I have spoken with the Secretary.”
In one request, Susan Pompeo asked a career staff member to accompany her to pick up take-out food for a social event with Michelle Brechbuhl, the wife of State Department Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl. “Michelle and I think Farmers, Fishers, Bakers is a good place for us to carry out dinner tonight. Michelle is willing to drive if one of you would just run in (that way… she won’t have to park!),” Susan Pompeo wrote in an email.
In another request, Susan Pompeo emailed a senior advisor and asked, “I’m wondering if we are sending the last of our personal [Christmas] cards out, who will be there to help me?” The employee then sent in a Senior Foreign Service Officer, who “came in on the weekend to envelope, address, and mail personal Christmas cards for the Pompeos.”
Pompeo denied the findings of the investigation, saying in a statement, “At no time did I, or my wife Susan, misuse taxpayer money or violate rules or ethical norms. Our actions were constantly reviewed by dozens of lawyers, and we made massive efforts, and did, comply with every requirement.”
But these chores and others “appear to have had no connection to official Department business,” the watchdog report said. These tasks were performed “during duty and non-duty hours,” the report said, but the Pompeos did not “reimburse the subordinate employees for their non-duty time when performing these tasks.” One employee told the investigators that she believed she had to carry out the tasks “as part of her official duties” and not merely friendly favors, which is how Pompeo tried to explain the requests when interviewed by investigators late last year.
The investigator general concluded that the Pompeos’ “requests were inconsistent with department ethics rules and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.” According to the report, most of the fieldwork for this investigation was completed by August 2020, but Pompeo dodged requests for an interview for three months, which delayed the release of the report.