WASHINGTON â€” A senior official at theÂ Department of Homeland SecurityÂ resigned on Saturday after accusations that she had created a sexualized office culture that was hostile to men. The official,Suzanne Barr, is a longtime aide to the departmentâ€™s secretary, Janet Napolitano, and had been on leave from her position as chief of staff to the director ofÂ Immigration and Customs Enforcementbecause of the allegations.
In a letter to the ICE director, John Morton, that was obtained by The New York Times, Ms. Barr denied the accusations as â€œunfounded and without any merit,â€ but said she had decided to move on.
â€œIn recent weeks, I have been the focus of unfounded allegations designed to destroy my reputation, but of greater concern, however, is the threat these allegations represent to the reputation of this agency and the men and women who proudly serve their country by advancing ICEâ€™s mission,â€ she wrote. â€œAs such, I feel it is incumbent upon me to take every step necessary to prevent further harm to the agency and to prevent this from further distracting from our critical work. Therefore, it is with great regret that I submit my resignation as chief of staff for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.â€
The accusations against Ms. BarrÂ came to light as part of a discrimination lawsuitÂ filed by James T. Hayes Jr., a top federalÂ immigrationÂ official in New York, against Ms. Napolitano, contending that he had been pushed out of a senior management position to make room for a less-qualified woman and then was retaliated against when he threatened to sue. The lawsuit also accused Ms. Barr of creating â€œa frat-house-type atmosphere that is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees.â€
The resignation â€” amid a three-day holiday weekend sandwiched between the Republican and Democratic national conventions â€” came at a time when the public was likely paying little attention to events in Washington. But Representative Peter T. King of New York, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, released a statement in which he vowed to continue to scrutinize the matter when Congress returns from its August break.
â€œThe resignation of Suzanne Barr raises the most serious questions about management practices and personnel policies at the Department of Homeland Security,â€ Mr. King said, adding that the committee would review â€œall the facts regarding this case and D.H.S. personnel practices across the board.â€
Brian Hale, an ICE spokesman, confirmed the resignation.