July 25, 2011
An ad hoc Hearing Committee in the District of Columbia recommends dismissal of all charges brought against a former attorney in the Office of General Counsel, Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA"). The charges involved primarily allegations of conflicts of interest and dishonesty.
The attorney had moonlighted as a fitness instructor and, later, working for a private firm consulting in EEO matters. Two of the consults involved USDA. The hearing committee found that these activities did not violate ethics rules.
The attorney taught a step aerobics class during lunchtime at USDA.
The committee found a closer question of dishonesty in filling out a USDA financial disclosure form. The committee found that the attorney was negligent, bordering on recklessness, but not dishonest in that regard.
The committee rejected the attorney's claim that the charges were barred by a Maryland disciplinary case on some of the same charges, finding that collateral estoppel did not apply. Maryland had charged the false statements.
The recommendation can be found at this link. The case is In re Donna Peterkin.
The recommendation is reviewed by the Board on Professional Responsibility. (Mike Frisch)
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