The Biden administration’s peculiar attachment to accused thief Sam Brinton

Shortly after Sam Brinton reported to a Senior Executive Service (“SES”) position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Chicks on the Right published an article about a whistleblower complaint filed in February 2022 regarding Brinton’s selection. The article includes a link to the complaint filed by “a long serving public servant at the Department of Energy.” It makes for interesting reading.

When applying for an SES position in the government, candidates must meet five mandatory criteria defined in Executive Core Qualifications (“ECQs”) that the United States Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) defines as required competencies for an SES executive. OPM further defines each ECQ to include “personal and professional attributes that are critical to successful performance in the SES.” The complaint addresses several of the ECQs that Brinton failed to meet. The complaint discusses certain core qualifications that Brinton fails to meet, but also states that the complaint is not limited to the ones that the complaint specifically addresses.

In addressing the Business Acumen ECQ, the complaint states, “Samuel Brinton has none of the business management experience, skills, or abilities…[that meet] any of these functional areas…” A review of Brinton’s work experience supports this assertion.

For the ECQ of “interpersonal skills,” the Office of Personal Management (OPM) guidance requires that the applicant respond “appropriately to the needs and feelings of different people in different situations.” The complaint states, “There is video-taped and published evidence that Samuel Brinton is biased in his treatment of others who do not share his gender-fluid identity and associated life-choice practices.”

Image: Sam Brinton (edited). YouTube screen grab.

Subsequent events have made a farce of the next ECQ, “Integrity and Honesty,” although even before Brinton admittedly nicked a suitcase off the carousel at Minneapolis Airport, the whistleblower stated there was “extensive video-recorded and documented evidence that Samuel Brinton…changes facts to suit audiences in a way that raises questions about the veracity of his statements, and…has been known to act in a manner which incites controversy in a variety of public settings.” Since the Minneapolis airport theft, Brinton has been accused of taking a suitcase from the Las Vegas airport as well on an unknown date.

Brinton entered Federal employment in June 2022 with no prior Federal service. That means he was hired as a “career-conditional” employee. Career-conditional employment is probationary employment for three years before achieving “career” status. Federal employees in a “career-conditional” appointment can be terminated without any reason given during the first year of employment, and for the next two years with cause, but with a lower bar than for career Federal employees.

According to those rules, the Biden administration could terminate Brinton’s employment immediately if it so wished. It hasn’t, though. Instead, it’s put him “on leave,” which, under OPM guidance, means he is still on the Federal payroll.  

Typically, employees are in this status pending an investigation, after which the employee is either cleared to return to work; disciplined but retained as an employee; or, in extreme cases (like criminal conduct), terminated for cause. On the facts available to the public, Brinton seems to have committed the acts alleged, at least in Minnesota. There’s video showing Brinton not only taking another person’s suitcase, but also immediately removing the name tag, and quickly leaving the baggage claim area.

More significant evidence of intentional conduct comes because he’s admitted to police that he took the bag, although he’s offered a variety of unconvincing excuses for his actions. An arrest warrant against Brinton has been issued for a second luggage theft at the Las Vegas airport on an unknown date.

As an employee in the Office of Nuclear Energy, Brinton has a security clearance as a condition of his employment. When an employee is alleged to have engaged in criminal behavior or admits to that behavior, he may have his security clearance revoked, even without a conviction or formal charges. Brinton’s admitted criminal conduct should trigger the revocation of his security clearance, which then provides additional grounds for his termination (if a second reason is necessary).

 Perhaps the administration is giving Brinton the benefit of the doubt and waiting for the legal process to play out. However, it is clear by now that Brinton’s hiring made a mockery of the Federal hiring process and that the Department of Energy ignored the red flags that “a long serving public servant at the Department of Energy” raised.  

Now, the Biden administration is dealing with a loose cannon who will provide appropriately juicy fodder to the Republican opposition for the foreseeable future. There’s every reason to offload Brinton immediately—a reality that makes it all the more curious that the administration is keeping him on the payroll.

William Duncan is a pseudonym. He is a former employee of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

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