WASHINGTON – The Secret Service agreed Tuesday to pay $24 million to settle a two-decade-old case in which more than 100 black agents have alleged that the agency fostered a racist culture and routinely promoted white agents over more qualified African-Americans, according to documents filed in court and interviews with representatives of both sides.
As part of the deal, which is the result of a last-minute push in the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, the agency admits to no wrongdoing or institutional bias.
But the payments to the agents – including lump sums as high as $300,000 each to the original eight plaintiffs – are intended to remedy the sting of the discrimination the agents claim they suffered and the job opportunities they lost, according to interviews with representatives from both sides.
Jennifer Klar, the lead attorney for the black agents, described her clients as thrilled with a result they hope will end future discrimination in the agency.
“At long last … black Secret Service agents will not be constrained by the glass ceiling that held back so many for so long,” Klar said.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose agency includes the Secret Service, said the resolution was “simply the right thing to do.”
“I am pleased that we are able to finally put this chapter of Secret Service history behind us,” Johnson said in a statement. “Had the matter gone to trial, it would have required that we re-live things long past, just at a time when the Secret Service is on the mend.”
Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy described the pending settlement in a conference call with former directors Tuesday afternoon and then sent an agency-wide message to staff late Tuesday night.
“While the Secret Service takes all allegations in this case seriously, the organization has, and continues to be, committed to a fair and transparent promotion process,” said spokeswoman Catherin Milhoan. “It is time to move forward rather than look back to remnants of the past.”
A Secret Service spokesperson did not respond late Tuesday for comment.
The case centered on black agents who repeatedly bid for promotions from 1995 to 2005, and were turned down in favor of whites. Often the white agents chosen had less experience and lower performance ratings, according to the plaintiffs. Ray Moore, the lead plaintiff, had been a member of President Clinton’s detail and bid 200 times for promotion over the years without success. Moore had trained several of the white agents who were leapfrogging over his head.
The suit was first filed when Clinton was president. But two presidents and four directors had passed the job of resolving this messy legal fight on to their successors.
Read more here: Miami Herald