Secret Service chief to step down this month

Posted at: 02/01/2013 3:50 PM
By: The Associated Press

Photo: Mark Sullivan
Photo: Mark Sullivan

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan is retiring this month after 30 years with the agency.
    
The retirement is effective Feb. 22, the agency said. His replacement hasn't been announced.
    
Sullivan joined the Secret Service in 1983 after three years as a special agent in the Inspector General's Office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He was appointed director in 2006.
    
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano thanked Sullivan for his service in a statement Friday.
    
"His commitment to keeping our country and its top officials safe is unparalleled and his devotion to the mission of the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security has been unwavering," Napolitano said.
    
Sullivan could have retired from government nearly 10 years ago but chose to stay on for what turned out to be a turbulent period for the service that included a South American prostitution scandal and a pair of White House gate crashers.
    
Last year, in testimony before Congress, Sullivan apologized for the conduct of Secret Service employees caught in a prostitution scandal in Colombia.
    
Thirteen agents and officers were implicated in the embarrassing incident that became public after one agent argued with a prostitute over payment in the hallway of a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel in April. The employees were in the Caribbean resort city in advance of President Barack Obama's arrival for a South American summit. After a night of heavy partying in some of Cartagena's bars and clubs, the employees brought women, including prostitutes, back to their hotel.
    
Eight of those Secret Service employees have been forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two are fighting to get their jobs back.
    
The incident prompted Sullivan to issue a new code of conduct that barred employees from drinking within 10 hours of the start of a shift or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms
    
In 2009, Sullivan had to answer questions about how a pair of aspiring socialites talked their way into a state dinner at the White House without being on the guest list. That the pair made into the highly secured event was not only a violation of protocol but raised questions about how easily an unauthorized person could gain close access to the president and vice president.
    
"In this case, I fully acknowledge the proper procedures were not followed and human error occurred in the execution of our duties," Sullivan told lawmakers after the incident.
    
Sullivan struck a similar tone in May when he apologized to lawmakers for the behavior of the Secret Service employees in Colombia but insisted that the incident was not indicative of a larger culture problem at the agency.
    
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