FBI L.A. chief reassigned amid flap over agents’ meeting at Dodgers playoff game

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The most senior official at the event — Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt — was reassigned from his position overseeing the FBI’s 1,400 employees in the Los Angeles area in recent weeks, according to a footnote in the report. The Los Angeles location, along with the New York and Washington offices, are the only field offices of the FBI overseen by someone of Delacourt’s rank.

An FBI spokesperson confirmed the move and said the 25-year veteran of the agency is now assigned to FBI headquarters in Washington. She declined to discuss the reasons for the change and said the bureau generally does not discuss personnel matters.

The inspector general report faulted Delacourt and Voviette Morgan, a special agent in charge for criminal matters, as primarily responsible for the event and for showing “poor judgment.” Morgan appears to remain in her position overseeing criminal matters in the Los Angeles region. Several other officials also remain in their posts, according the FBI’s website, which now lists the San Francisco office’s chief, John Bennett, as the acting head of the LA office.

Delacourt’s transfer isn’t considered punishment under FBI policy. Lawrence Berger, a lawyer for the former LA office leader and others dinged in the report, stressed that no discipline has been imposed on the accused officials.

“The allegations … with respect to all parties involved and all issues, have not been be adjudicated by the FBI, nor have they been sustained by the FBI. That is a process that is ongoing and we’re going to wait for its completion,” said Berger.

The imbroglio surrounding the Dodgers’ game meeting arose at an exceedingly sensitive time for the FBI: just as Director Christopher Wray was trying to get the agency back on an even keel and keep it out of the headlines amid continuing tensions with President Donald Trump.

The agency had also just weathered the firing of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and a slew of reports of alleged misconduct, including a brutal inspector general’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

The 50-page report on the Dodgers game episode says Delacourt remains insistent that there was no impropriety in the handling of the Oct. 15, 2018 meeting and disputes the watchdog office’s conclusion that he gave the FBI’s No. 2 official, David Bowdich, a skewed and incomplete account of what transpired.

“We remain troubled that an FBI executive with Delacourt’s experience still, to this day, does not recognize this failing,” the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office says.

The report also found that FBI leaders in Los Angeles ignored concerns bureau personnel raised in advance about the propriety of the planned meeting, as well as a verbal warning from the FBI’s special events coordinator not to eat at the Stadium Club or partake of free food aside from hot dogs available at a command post outside the stadium.

When the field office’s top lawyer approached Delacourt shortly after the event and said those who attended might need to pay about $500 apiece to the Dodgers as a reimbursement, the FBI official emphatically disagreed, emphasizing the hours the top agents spent in briefings before the game began.

“This was a day at the office and he’s in here talking about luxury suites and fair market value of NLCS tickets and I’m like, you’re not listening to me,” Delacourt told investigators, referring to the lawyer. “He began to give me … lawyerly answers. I understand your position. … [T]o me [that] meant, screw you, I don’t believe you. And that was how we started this conversation. Shame on him.”

There are hints that the interactions between FBI personnel over the playoff game meeting grew even more acrimonious.

On the same day last month that the inspector general’s office released a bare-bones summary of its investigation (omitting the fact that it was about the Dodgers game or Los Angeles), the internal watchdog revealed that an unnamed senior official retaliated against an unnamed supervisory special agent for reporting that “the senior official and other managers committed ethics violations.”

The Dodgers’ website promotes the venue where the FBI meeting took place as a luxurious spot for the well-heeled to take in a game away from the hustle and bustle of the thousands of fans.

“The exclusive Stadium Club offers members one of the most unrivaled encounters in professional sports,” a inviting promotional video posted online declares. “Enjoy our chef’s table that offers an all-you-can-eat buffet to choose from that changes from game to game and includes impressive carving stations, salad bars, desserts and even your beloved Dodger Dog. … Reserve one of the club’s front rail seats and you’ll never have to leave the club to watch the game.”

The watchdog report refrains from characterizing the buffet the FBI brass indulged in, beyond calling it “extensive.” On the day the agents visited, the smorgasbord included “a carving station for meat, shrimp, salads, past, Dodger dogs, pizza, and a dessert station,” the report says.

The agents later paid $20 per person to a Dodgers’ charity to cover the cost of the meal.

While several FBI agents told the IG that they modified their presentations at the meeting because of the unusual public venue, the IG noted that when it came time to process its investigative report for public release, the FBI asked that “a number of items” discussed at the Dodgers Stadium meeting be deleted as “law enforcement sensitive.” That bolstered the investigators view that the matters weren’t appropriate for discussion in a venue open to members of the public.

The report also indicates that Delacourt called Bowdich the day after the event, offering a heads up that a complaint had been made about the lunch meeting. The inspector general’s report doesn’t directly accuse Delacourt of dishonesty, but says the account he gave Bowdich wasn’t “complete” and “deprived Bowdich of the ability to arrive at an informed judgment about the events and to take appropriate action.”

Bowdich recalled Delacourt mentioning a sandwich lunch available to all law enforcement and that they “ended up” in a “box,” the report says.

“Delacourt, however, did not tell Bowdich that the ‘restaurant’ where they ate was the exclusive Stadium Club, that the ‘conference table’ was a Stadium Club dining table located adjacent to the railing overlooking the playing field, that the LAFO weekly executive meeting was held in a public area of the Stadium Club at a dining table surrounded by other tables occupied by fans, or that the ‘meal’ was from an extensive buffet that was for the use of Dodger fans who had access to the Stadium Club.”

The report also faulted Special Agent in Charge for intelligence Stephen Woolery for drinking alcohol at the stadium, although he maintained he had only one drink. Investigators said that violated FBI policy since he was officially on duty and it reinforced perceptions that the visit wasn’t really a work event. However, they said there was no evidence he was impaired and noted that no FBI policy specifically prohibits its personnel from carrying a firearm or driving a government-owned vehicle after drinking.

Controversies over attendance at major sporting events have cut short the careers of several top FBI agents in recent years. About a decade ago, a special-agent-in-charge at the Los Angeles office resigned after coming under scrutiny for accepting National Basketball Association tickets.

And in 2018, about eight months before the Dodgers game episode, top FBI public affairs official Mike Kortan resigned after facing allegations that he took baseball tickets from CNN and New York Times reporters.

The outcome of the Dodgers game may have been a bad omen for those attending: The Los Angeles team was shut out, 4-0, by the Milwaukee Brewers. The Dodgers did go on to win the league championship, but were defeated by the Red Sox in the World Series.

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