The investigation blames the head of the OAS for a work romance, finds no misconduct – KGET 17

MIAMI (AP) – An outside investigation has found that the head of the Organization of American States showed poor judgment by developing a romantic relationship with a junior employee but did not favor her in any pay or personnel decisions, according to a copy of the review reviewed by The Associated Press.

The findings on Secretary General Luis Almagro’s conduct are contained in a 121-page report delivered to OAS member states on Monday. While not clearing him of all the allegations, Almagro said the report represents closure on an issue that has divided regional governments along ideological lines and threatens to distract the democracy-building organization from its mission.

“At all times I acted with maximum transparency, putting the interests of the organization first and respecting norms,” ​​Almagro said in a 10-page response included in the report, a copy of which was shared with the AP by someone who received it. on condition of anonymity because it has not yet been made public.

The report was triggered after the AP revealed last October that Almagro, 59, had a long relationship with Mexican staff two decades his junior — a relationship that, while largely open, felt to some in the Washington-based organization like a throwback to an era unbridled machismo in the workplace.

The investigation, led by the Washington law firm Miller & Chevalier, faulted Almagro for allowing the woman — who the AP is not naming at the request of the OAS — to call herself an “advisor” to the secretary general, even though she did not report directly to him and that title was limited to a few senior assistants.

The woman also accompanied Almagro on 42 of the 92 business trips he took during the roughly four years of their romance, creating the impression, both inside and outside the organization, that she was a trusted aide who enjoyed preferential treatment from her boss.

“An external investigation revealed that the Secretary-General was aware of this and took no steps to prevent this perception from continuing to spread,” the report said.

Still, the investigation found no evidence that Almagro played a role in the woman’s salary increases — all of which were commensurate with positive performance reviews, some from her time before dating Almagro.

In addition, investigators said the couple took “due precautions” not to break any rules — even filing a conflict-of-interest statement in March 2022 that said their relationship did not interfere with their work duties. Soon after, they broke up and the woman went on unpaid leave.

According to the report, Almagro first worked closely with junior staff at an event at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in March 2018 that she helped organize. A week after their return to Washington, he invited the woman to move to the main OAS building so that she could be part-time on his staff – a request that her superior did not find unusual.

Soon after, the two became romantically involved. Almagro, in consultation with an unnamed aide, determined that because he was not the woman’s direct supervisor, nor did he play any role in decisions about her promotion or pay, the relationship did not violate OAS norms.

“From that moment, the Secretary General established a sufficient hierarchical and administrative distance between himself and OAS officials, so that there would be no violation – even inadvertently – of the norms governing intimate relations,” the report concluded.

Almagro was elected head of the OAS with near-unanimous support in 2015 after serving as foreign minister in Uruguay’s leftist government. From the outset, Almagro has had common cause with the US in opposing the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, once even echoing President Donald J. Trump’s stance that he would not rule out the use of military force to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

He was re-elected in 2020 and has since faced a number of challenges from mainly left-wing governments that have criticized the key role he played in Bolivia’s messy 2019 elections, which ended with the resignation of Evo Morales amid allegations of fraud by the OAS observer mission. — discoveries that were later questioned by American academics.

The Biden administration, which has largely supported Almagro in the ideological tug-of-war, sees him as a bulwark against the rise of authoritarian rule across Latin America. But privately, many officials grumble about the recent shakeup of the cash-strapped organization and Almagro’s leadership style.

Frank Mora, the US ambassador to the OAS, expressed support for the report’s findings, noting that Almagro was cleared of violating any employment, compensation, travel or conflict of interest rules or regulations.

“Based on our first reading, the report appears thorough and fair,” he said in a written statement.

Mora did not address the separate findings that Almagro violated ethics rules that staff should “always use common sense and good judgment” and that as head of the organization he should be held to an even higher standard.

But he expressed support for working with other member states to implement the report’s recommendations, including a call for the OAS to update its decades-old ethics code and 2015 harassment policy, as well as expand its workplace relations regulation.

“We look forward to hearing the views of other OAS member states on this issue,” he added.

Mexico’s leftist government, which along with Argentina and Bolivia called on Almagro to resign even before the report was released, said the report clearly showed Almagro abused his power within the OAS.

“He’s causing damage,” Efraín Guadarrama, a senior foreign ministry official who manages Mexico’s participation in multilateral organizations, said in an interview. “This report clearly shows that he does not have the minimum basic qualifications to be secretary-general.”

AP writer Gisela Salomon contributed to this report from Miami. Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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