DOD watchdog says DDS director didn't mistreat employees

A probe found that Defense Digital Service Brett Goldstein did condone the use of unapproved encrypted communications apps and also identified discussion among staffers about programming a script to rig an online competition.

The Pentagon (Photo by Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock)
 

Investigators at the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Defense did not find evidence to substantiate allegations of workplace bullying on the part of outgoing Defense Digital Service Director Brett Goldstein.

Between March and June of last year, the DOD hotline received 30 complaints against Goldstein, who became director in 2019 and is set to depart this month. The OIG's findings were presented in a report dated June 21.

The IG found that Goldstein used and condoned the unauthorized use of Signal, an encrypted messaging and voice call app. Goldstein gave out his Signal phone number in emails and on Slack. He confirmed to investigators that he used the app and was working with DOD's CIO and the general counsel at DDS to get Signal approved for some DOD components. Current DOD policy puts most non-official electronic messaging accounts off-limits for official DOD communication.

The report also details complaints that Goldstein told his employees to hack FedScoop's 2020 "Best Bosses in Federal IT" competition, which he did win.

DDS' legal advisor told the investigators that "subordinates joked about creating a script that could submit votes for Mr. Goldstein, but they were told that doing so would be inappropriate, which resolved the issue," the report says.

Goldstein denied asking anyone to make a script for him. The investigation "found no evidence that Mr. Goldstein took an action in violation of a standard as alleged in these complaints."

The majority of the complaints investigated by IG centered on Goldstein's management, with witnesses alleging that he treated female employees differently than male employees, made subordinates cry, yelled at workers and directed profanities at them.

These aren't the first complaints against him – accusations of bullying surfaced within two months after he started his tenure as director, according to the report.

Goldstein denied the allegations of sexism and told investigators that he didn't recall yelling at his employees or making them cry, although he admitted to generally using profanities.

The IG concluded that he "did not fail to treat subordinates with dignity and respect" on the basis of DOD ethics guidelines, given that "the preponderance of evidence did not support allegations." The majority of subordinates interviewed characterized his leadership favorably, the report said.

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