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Ethics Charge Against Former U.S. Marshal Ends in Pre-Trial Diversion

Ethics Charge Against Former U.S. Marshal Ends in Pre-Trial Diversion

by Derek Gilna

A criminal ethics charge filed against a former U.S. Marshals Service agent in Arizona who had applied for a job with a private prison company he previously monitored has been dropped, and prosecutors let him enter a pre-trial diversion program. At the same time, former agent Thomas B. Bullen is proceeding with a lawsuit against the Marshals Service.

The Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office refused to comment on Bullen’s case or the requirements of the pre-trial diversion program, which he agreed to enter in October 2013.

Bullen was indicted in 2012 for allegedly violating a federal ethics law that prohibits federal employees from taking jobs with companies they are responsible for overseeing. In Bullen’s case that included Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which operates a detention facility in Florence, Arizona.

Bullen was a chief administration officer for the Marshals Service until 2011, when he was demoted and put in charge of overseeing the agency’s contract with CCA and monitoring the company’s compliance.

A federal indictment said Bullen had described his duties in an unrelated proceeding, stating: “I go throughout the facility and compare the contract with what they are doing. I make surprise inspections at all times of the day or night; and file reports with the Arizona U.S. Marshals Service and also confer with the Office of Federal Detention Trustee in Washington, D.C.”

When Bullen learned CCA’s health administrator at the Florence facility was retiring, he applied for her job. The indictment noted that during a November 18, 2011 interview, Bullen told CCA he did not intend to notify the Marshals Service that he had applied for the position until he knew whether or not he would be hired.

CCA offered him the position on November 22 and he submitted his resignation to the Marshals Service. But instead of accepting it, the agency placed Bullen on administrative leave and opened an investigation into a possible ethics violation. He was then indicted on one count of “conflict of interest” based on 18 U.S.C. §§ 208 and 216. Meanwhile, CCA hired someone else for the position.

Ironically, Bullen had undergone ethics training in 2008 and again in 2011, part of which covered the regulations barring federal employees from seeking employment that conflicts with their official duties.

According to court documents, “during that training, Bullen was specifically instructed that ‘if an employee who participates personally and substantially in a federal procurement exceeding $100,000 is contacted by a vendor/bidder with an offer for employment,’ the employee must refuse the offer and report the contact in writing to a supervisor.”

Bullen was not the first government employee who failed to comply with the law when seeking employment with a private company he once monitored. Although most violations of this type are usually resolved by the employee’s resignation and loss of benefits, there have been other criminal prosecutions.

Meanwhile, Bullen’s lawsuit against the Marshals Service alleges that his 2011 demotion was due to discrimination because two of his direct supervisors were Hispanic and younger, less-qualified women were hired to replace him. He is also pursuing a retaliation claim.

“Mr. Bullen has filed numerous ... grievances against the Marshals Service management,” Arizona U.S. Marshal David Gonzales told the Phoenix New Times. “All have been dismissed, and I’m confident this one will be, too.”

Bullen’s suit currently remains pending, with a federal district court denying the government’s motion to dismiss on October 8, 2014. See: Bullen v. Holder, U.S.D.C. (D. Ariz.), Case No. 2:13-cv-01349-TMB.


Sources:, Phoenix New Times


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Related legal case

Bullen v. Holder