SPECIAL COUNSEL TRANSMITS REPORT
SUBSTANTIATING INS WHISTLEBLOWERS’ ALLEGATIONS OF GROSS MISMANAGEMENT,
ABUSES OF AUTHORITY AND OTHER OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT BY FORMER DIRECTOR OF
NATIONAL FIREARMS UNIT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 10/15/01
CONTACT: JANE MCFARLAND
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today transmitted to President Bush and the Congress, an investigative report prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), substantiating whistleblowers’ allegations that the former Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS), National Firearms Unit (NFU) committed violations of law, rule, or regulation and engaged in gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds and abuses of authority.
The NFU, which is located in Altoona, Pennsylvania, serves as the central resource within INS for all aspects of its firearms program. It provides oversight of INS’ inventory of guns and ammunition, as well as maintenance and repair services, and disposes of seized and excess firearms and ammunition. Further, NFU is also responsible for maintaining the Firearms Inventory System and conducting Firearms Accountability Reviews.
The whistleblowers were INS employees who worked under the supervision of the former director of the NFU, Mr. Gary Runyon. They alleged to OSC that Mr. Runyon had engaged in numerous acts of misconduct that were inconsistent with his critical position and responsibilities. Among other things, they alleged that Mr. Runyon asked employees to do personal tasks for him on government time using government equipment, removed gun parts from rifles in government storage for his personal collection, provided employees with ammunition seized by the INS for their personal use, and required employees to carry firearms both on and off duty in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The whistleblowers also alleged that the former NFU Director allowed non-INS employees to shoot machine guns and pistols at the NFU range at an event he called “Fun Day,” bought expensive and unnecessary machinery for NFU, and accepted dinner and show tickets for himself and other NFU employees from the Remington Arms Gun Company, in violation of ethical rules.
The Special Counsel found that the whistleblowers’ disclosures demonstrated a substantial likelihood of violations of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; and an abuse of authority. Therefore, under her statutory authority, she transmitted the whistleblowers’ allegations to former Attorney General Janet Reno, for an investigation and written report.
The DOJ report, which was provided by former Attorney General Reno, along with a supplemental report prepared by the then-Acting Commissioner of INS, Kevin D. Rooney, substantiated a number of the whistleblowers’ allegations. Among other things, the report concluded that Mr. Runyon routinely violated INS’ policy on accounting for ammunition. The investigation revealed that between March 1996 and June of 2000, 122,890 rounds of ammunition were charged personally to Mr. Runyon. The report noted that this amount was unusually high, given normal usage levels. According to the report, some 90,000 of these rounds of ammunition were transferred with management’s approval and proper documentation to other agencies. Some 30,000 rounds, however, remain unaccounted for. INS stated that Mr. Runyon’s practice might be a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641 – conversion of government property to personal use.
The report verified that Mr. Runyon allowed non-INS employees to use government firearms, including machines guns, on the government’s firing range as part of an activity that Mr. Runyon called “Fun Day.” The report also found that NFU employees worked on nongovernmental firearms during duty hours, that Mr. Runyon had directed NFU personnel to make repairs on an antique sewing machine owned by his supervisor, on government time, using government equipment, and that Mr. Runyon had taken government firearms to his home. The report was not able to substantiate whether he removed parts from these guns.
The allegations that Mr. Runyon misused government property, including vehicles, storage space and a Federal Express account were substantiated. The report also established that Mr. Runyon required certain personnel who were not Immigration Officers to carry firearms, in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Further, the report confirmed that Mr. Runyon and other employees violated ethics rules in accepting gratuities from the Remington Arms Gun Company during a business trip to a Las Vegas gun show.
Finally, the report concluded that Mr. Runyon bought unnecessary and expensive machinery for NFU, costing in excess of $250,000 and concluded that inadequate research was conducted prior to the purchases.
Due to the violations and misconduct uncovered by the investigation, the NFU established new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) containing, among other things, heightened accounting requirements for ammunition. The INS also eliminated any “Fun Day” activities. Mr. Runyon no longer works for INS, having retired during the course of this investigation. INS has also placed new personnel into management positions with oversight of NFU.
In transmitting the agency report to the President and the Congress, the Special Counsel is required under the statute to evaluate whether it contains the necessary information and whether its findings appear reasonable. In evaluating this report, Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan found that the majority of the findings in the report appeared reasonable. She concluded, however, that the agency’s decision not to propose any disciplinary action against Mr. Runyon before he retired did not appear reasonable. Moreover, Special Counsel Kaplan concluded that the agency’s failure to transmit the report’s findings regarding Mr. Runyon to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for review of possible criminal prosecution also does not appear reasonable.
Copies of the Department of Justice’s report and Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan’s transmittal letter can be obtained by contacting the OSC.