A Border Patrol agent who called the Port Angeles station a "black hole" last week in Washington, D.C., is back at work - in Port Angeles.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent who called the patrol’s station in Port Angeles a “black hole” where there is little work to do and “no purpose, no mission,” is now back at work.
Christian Sanchez has returned to the agency’s offices at the Richard B. Anderson Federal Building in downtown Port Angeles, his lawyer, Paul Richmond of Port Townsend, said Monday.
The Port Angeles station is the headquarters for Border Patrol operations on the Olympic Peninsula.
Richmond said Sanchez did not want to be interviewed.
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“We are being very careful because he is in a very vulnerable position,” Richmond said.
He said both Sanchez and his family had been harassed by his fellow agents.
Richmond would not comment on the possibility of legal action – by Sanchez or by the government against the agent – as a result of Sanchez’s allegations, made to a Washington, D.C., open-government group on Friday.
Sanchez went public after a long-running feud with the Port Angeles station, to which he was transferred in September 2009 from San Diego.
Border Patrol officials would not comment about Sanchez returning to work, what tasks he was now doing – or about his allegations.
Contacted by the Peninsula Daily News, Richard Sinks, spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Blaine Sector, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula, said only that Sanchez’s claims had been referred to the federal Joint Intake Center, which will refer it to an investigating agency, possibly the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
“We have no idea who will be investigating it,” Sinks said.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks said the congressman will not get involved in the case.
Richmond said Sanchez is married, in his late 30s and the father of three school-age children.
The attorney said Sanchez sought him out because the agent was retaliated against after refusing to work overtime – something he felt constituted taxpayer “fraud,” given the lack of actual work to do in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Sanchez said he was tailed and monitored by fellow agents, unfairly written up for insubordination, urged to seek psychiatric counseling and stripped of his role as a Border Patrol chaplain, which he performed in addition to his regular duties as an agent.
“His family is being harassed,” Richmond said.
“He’s got people driving by his house. His kids are asking, `Mommy, why are people sitting outside our house taking pictures?’
“They were taking pictures of him outside my office,” the lawyer said.
“That’s just crazy stuff.
“Apparently, they don’t have a real mission to do, so that’s where they are putting their work.”
“He wanted to draw attention to something that was wrong.
“That’s always been his main goal. Something’s wrong here, and taxpayers are being swindled, really.”
Sanchez, a Border Patrol agent for eight years, released a lengthy statement Friday in Washington, D.C., as a panelist at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.
The committee and the foundation say they work for greater openness in government.
The advisory committee had asked Sanchez to appear at the request of the Government Accountability Project, a whistle-blower advocacy organization with whom Richmond has worked.
Richmond said he has discussed the case with staff from U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington state and Dicks, who represents Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Dicks, D-Belfair, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, won’t be getting involved in the case, Dicks’ spokesman George Behan said.
“At this point, it’s going to be handled, I’m sure, as a personnel matter by the Border Patrol,” Behan said.
“It’s not easy for us to adjudicate that kind of situation, especially when he has an attorney and may file action against the agency.
“Given that he has retained counsel with the implicit expectation that legal action is pending, it makes it hard to have any other response other than we will await the result.”
Richmond said Sanchez has been refused a transfer to the southern border, where he began his Border Patrol career and still wants to go there.
The Port Angeles-based Border Patrol contingent, which Sanchez said has grown to more than 40 agents from two dozen in August 2009 – the Border Patrol has refused to divulge the number of agents in Port Angeles – patrols Clallam and Jefferson counties.
The agency is building a $5.7 million headquarters at 110 Penn St. in Port Angeles that can house up to 50 agents.
It is slated for completion in April.
“During our work shifts, other agents and I always talked about how coming to work was like the black hole, swallowing us up slowly with no purpose, no mission,” Sanchez said in his statement.
While his supervisors insisted “there is lots of cross-border activity here,” Sanchez said he and fellow agents found none.
So they spent their time driving around the Peninsula, which they came to refer to as the Baja 500, “after the car race.”
“I’ve talked to agents who confidentially expressed that they are depressed and are going `crazy’ because there is no casework to do,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez contends that his Border Patrol bosses “want to create their own kingdom. The spending is to expand bureaucratic turf, not to protect our nation.”
Sanchez refused to work Administratively Uncontrolled Overtime, for which he said agents are paid an average of $17,000 a year for a total cost of $850,000 while not actually working.
“Since I am the only person who doesn’t claim AUO, I am the only person who has to announce it three times daily to my supervisor,” he said in his statement.
Information from: Peninsula Daily News, http://www.peninsuladailynews.com