A top Homeland Security official accused of sexual discrimination has stepped down from her job after two more employees this week lodged complaints about her ‘lewd’ behaviour.
Suzanne Barr, the Immigrant and Customs Enforcement chief-of-staff, has ‘voluntarily placed herself on leave’ while an internal review takes place, it emerged last night.
The two ICE employees have submitted sworn affidavits alleging graphic comments made by Barr and another top official working for Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano.
Both statements detail incidents said to have taken place in 2009, reports Fox News.
They were given as part of a discrimination lawsuit filed earlier this year by James T Hayes Jr, the head of the New York ICE office.
Barr is also mentioned in that lawsuit, which alleges Napolitano turned the Department of Homeland Security into a female-run ‘frat house’ where male staffers were routinely humiliated and on the receiving end of ‘sexually charged games’.
Barr, who has been the ICE’s chief of staff since January 2009, repeatedly targeted men because of their gender and once called a male employee’s hotel room to use sexually explicit language, the suit claims.
In one of the new affidavits, an ICE employee claims Barr said to a senior executive, ‘You a sexy m*****-f*****’.
It continued: ‘She then looked at his crotch and asked, “How long is it anyway?” Several employees laughed nervously.’
The other witness statement details a trip to Colombia in late 2009 made by Barr, ICE director John Morton and Ray Parmer, ICE special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Orleans.
Barr and Parmer were ‘drinking heavily’ at the house of the deputy chief of mission for the U.S. embassy, when Parmer allegedly took the BlackBerry of another ICE employee, Peter Vincent, and sent ‘lewd messages’ to Barr.
The affadavit said: ‘During this party, Suzanne Barr approached me and offered to’ perform a sex act.
Both witness statements were this week submitted to the defence attorney in the lawsuit Hayes filed against Napolitano.
While Napolitano is named as the sole defendant, the suit details the behaviour of her advisers Barr and Dora Schriro.
Barr, who was born in Phoenix, studied at the University of Arizona before working in Washington D.C. for four years as a staff assistant for Sen. John McCain. She went on to receive her J.D. from Arizona State University College of Law.
Before becoming chief of staff, she worked as Napolitano’s deputy director and director of legislative affairs, and served as her policy advisor on law enforcement issues.
It is unknown whether or not she is married.
In the lawsuit, Hayes claims Napolitano awarded a job to a less-qualified woman, Schriro, with whom she has a ‘long-standing relationship’, over him.
He alleges Napolitano favoured Schriro, who had worked as director of the Arizona Department of Corrections when Napolitano was governor of the state, for a job due to their relationship.
The lawsuit does not outline the exact nature of the relationship between Napolitano and the woman she brought with her to Washington from Arizona.
It has long been rumoured that ‘Big Sis’ Napolitano is a lesbian, but in 2002 she publicly denied the claims.
Schriro is a widow; she was married for just ten months in 1991 before her husband, St Louis’s director of public safety Gay Carraway, died of cancer. He was 20 years her senior.
She has previously gushed about how much she looks up to Napolitano, naming her as one of her greatest influences – alongside her late husband and grandparents.
‘Janet Napolitano is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met,’ she told Education Update. ‘She’s totally capable of having a great time wherever she is and regardless of the workload.’
In the suit Hayes also accuses Barr of repeated ‘sexually offensive behaviour’ intended to ‘humiliate and intimidate male employees’.
On one occasion, Barr called a colleague in his hotel room and screamed using sexually explicit language, telling him she ‘wanted his c*** in the back of [her] throat’.
Hayes claims he ‘felt that he was being targeted because of his gender’ and witnessed Barr repeatedly picking on men.
She ‘created a frat-house type atmosphere that is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees’, according to court papers.
In 2009, she ‘removed the entire contents of the offices of three male employees, including nameplates, computers and telephones, to the men’s bathroom at ICE headquarters’.
Once she took a male special agent’s work phone and messaged his female supervisor ‘indicating that the male employee had a crush on the female supervisor and fantasised about her’.
The suit adds: ‘Further, Barr promoted and otherwise rewarded those male employees who play along with her sexually charged games.’
Hayes is seeking relief for $335,000 in damages.
ICE Director of Public Affairs Brian Hale last week dismissed the allegations as ‘unfounded’.
In a statement, he said last night: ‘ICE has referred these allegations to the DHS Office of Inspector General and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility for review. Ms Barr has voluntarily placed herself on leave pending the outcome of this review.’