NEW YORK CITY – In order to identify a former U.S. attorney whose affair with a supervisor created a hostile environment - Stephen Wigginton - news source Buzzfeed agreed to stop asking for the supervisor’s name.
U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick approved the compromise on May 8, and gave the Department of Justice 14 days to release the former U.S. attorney’s name.
The DOJ produced a summary of Wigginton's misconduct in a May 2017 report without naming him or his office partner.
The summary stated that the affair created an appearance of partiality.
It stated that the affair created a hostile environment because employees who had problems with the supervisor couldn’t report her to the U.S. attorney. And, when the department opened an investigation, the U.S. attorney admitted the affair and retired from federal service.
Zoe Tillman of Buzzfeed asked for a report behind the summary, and the department provided it after redacting both names.
Tillman sued, and Broderick ordered disclosure in March.
Broderick found he could hardly consider the misconduct personal. He found employees felt powerless, embarrassed, and distracted.
Assistant U.S. attorney Arastu Chaudhury moved for reconsideration in April, arguing that the supervisor’s name should remain confidential.
He wrote that as a subordinate, she couldn’t violate the department’s sexual harassment policy, and she could have claimed she was a victim and could still do so.
Chaudhury attached a policy the department adopted last November, requiring a U.S. attorney to notify two other offices of an internal relationship.
The policy states that a relationship can lead to loss of necessary objectivity in making decisions equitably and credibly.
It states that a supervisor might abuse authority to advance a relationship rather than the department’s interests.
“The very nature of romantic or intimate relationships in the workplace makes the potential for adverse complications unpredictable,” the policy states.
Appointed by President Obama, Wigginton served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois from Aug. 27, 2010 to Dec. 11, 2015, having resigned before his term was up. According to the OIG report, the affair lasted almost as long as his tenure.
Upon his resignation, he entered private practice at Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis.
The embattled former prosecutor has faced two DUIs in Madison County - the most recent charge issued following a New Year's Eve arrest is still pending.