There are more than 73 Offices of the Inspector General (OIG) in the federal government. The OIGs are charged with investigating and auditing to uncover waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. OIG can investigate federal employees for misconduct, and ethical and criminal violations, but OIGs can also investigate government contractors and recipients of government loans or grants. In short, the OIG’s jurisdiction is criminal, civil, and administrative.
OIG investigates using criminal investigators, administrative investigators, law enforcement officers, special agents, auditors, and other investigative staff. OIG agents have authority to carry firearms, to arrest, and to execute search warrants. Following an investigation, the OIG may refer allegations to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution and/or to management for disciplinary action.
Many federal agencies also have an Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). OPRs investigate employees who have been accused of misconduct or crimes in executing their professional functions.
Getting a call from your OIG or OPR can be a terrifying event. You have to be concerned about criminal charges as well as administrative disciplinary charges, such as suspension or removal from your job.
When conducting an investigation, investigators should identify themselves and present their credentials. They do not have to tell you if you are the target of the investigation or what the interview is about. OIG / OPR investigators have to give you warnings about the statement you make during the investigative interview. The type of warning you get might help you understand the kind of investigation that’s going on and whether you are a target of the investigation.
- Kalkines warnings. A Kalkines warning advises the employee that they are required to participate in the IG / OPR investigation and failure to participate may result in administrative disciplinary action. The Kalkines warning should also inform the employee that the employee’s answers during the investigation cannot be used against them in a criminal proceeding, unless the employee commits perjury.
- Garrity warnings. Garrity warnings apply when the IG / OPR interview may result in both criminal and administrative consequences and should inform you that your cooperation is voluntary. A Garrity warning advises the employee that they do not have to answer questions that might implicate them in a crime and that the employee will not be administratively disciplined if they decline to cooperate. If an employee agrees to participate in an interview after receiving a Garrity warning, the employee’s statement may be used against them in a criminal, civil or administrative proceeding.
- Weingarten warnings. Weingarten warnings apply if the employee is a bargaining unit employee. Individuals covered by a bargaining unit are entitled to union representation during interviews if disciplinary action might result. However, the agency has no obligation to inform the employee that s/he is entitled to union representation.
- Miranda warnings. Miranda warnings are given when an individual is arrested or similarly detained. The Miranda warning advises that the witness/employee has the right not to answer questions, that anything said may be used against them in a criminal proceeding, that they have the right to not incriminate themselves and the right to an attorney.
If you believe there is an on-going investigation about you, or if you have been asked to participate in an investigation, contact us immediately, as you may not have much time to prepare for the interview. If an investigation proceeds to proposed disciplinary action, we can help you respond to the proposal and file an appropriate appeal.
For more information about your rights during an OIG investigation and how to protect yourself, contact us.